Kensington Opioid Spending Rejected by Pa. Commission

A multimillion-dollar revitalization project in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood – financed with funds from a nationwide settlement of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers – has been rejected by the Pennsylvania commission that oversees how those settlement funds are spent.

The Pennsylvania Opioid Fund said the $7.5 million spent on “Plan Kensington,” which was intended to lend a hand residents of the neighborhood hardest hit by the city’s opioid crisis, was outside the scope of the approved utilize of funds outlined in the settlement.

Confidence can limit or hold back the future opioid settlement payments if they determine that the county is spending funds outside the scope of Schedule E, which is the part of the national opioid settlement that governs how settlement funds can be spent. Districts have three months to “correct spending errors” before the trust reduces or withholds funds.

Philadelphia, which is expected to receive about $200 million from the settlement paid in $20 million installments over 18 years, can appeal the decision. The city began distributing the funds last year, before Mayor Cherelle L. Parker took office. The city authorities declined to comment on this matter on Thursday.

Some committee members said they support the work being done in Kensington, but they believe it does not meet the requirements of the settlement.

“I just think you have to follow the letter of the law,” said state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, a Democrat whose district includes Kensington.

How Philly spent the money

Work already funded at Kensington includes home repair program and money to support local schools and parks. In the documents obtained by Spotlight PA last monthcity ​​officials wrote that “exposure to traumatic experiences… has been linked to substance use disorders” and that Kensington residents’ trauma increases their risk of substance utilize.

Officials wrote that funding to upgrade parks and schools “will ensure safe access to these spaces for children and families living at the epicenter of the overdose crisis” and argued that these efforts should be included in the section of Schedule E that allows communities to spend settlement funds to “prevent opioid abuse.”

Tumar Alexander, a member of the Opioid Trust, was Philadelphia’s managing director at the time the funds were spent and currently serves as a senior advisor to the mayor. He told the committee he would not vote to reject Kensington’s spending.

He said Kensington is “ground zero” of the city’s opioid crisis, is grappling with conditions found nowhere else in the state and its residents have been uniquely traumatized by seeing decades of outdoor drug utilize on the streets.

“This funding, this request for funding and support, intentionally through this program, was an imperative for us, the city, to be accountable and say that we support the revitalization and redevelopment of this community through existing neighbors who have lived through this,” he said.

The money in question was split between the New Kensington Community Development Corporation and Impact Services, two Kensington nonprofits, as part of the Kensington Plan developed after years of community discussion about helping neighbors and addicts in the area.

Bill McKinney, executive director of the NKCDC, said he thought Kensington was “stuck between city and state” and that residents should be “furious that their own legislators did this.”

Initiatives funded by the Kensington Plan are preventive measures in neighborhoods where the crisis is profoundly affecting everyday life, he added. For example, a settlement-funded program to lend a hand residents avoid eviction, he said, could lend a hand prevent homelessness, drug utilize and outdoor drug dealing.

“Consider why someone causes someone to lose their home. “It could be someone who is struggling with addiction: then they will end up on the streets and we will spend hundreds of thousands trying to get them back home,” he said.

“And the guys on the corner… they don’t drive Lamborghinis,” he said. “Many of them are trying to keep their families at home. Now they are on the corner selling to another person who will soon lose their home. What if we stopped this whole cycle?”

State commission members said they were still considering whether a number of smaller programs would be funded under Overdose Prevention and the Community Recovery Fund, another settlement-funded initiative, were compliant with its requirements. The commission voted to approve several other Philadelphia programs that received grants through this fund.

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