Lawrence County Domestic Violence Coalition requested opiate funds

BEDFORD – Joe Diebert approached the Lawrence County Commissioners Tuesday morning requesting opiate funds to help domestic violence victims.

Attorney General Todd Rokita reported in July 2021 that Indiana was due to receive $507 million in compensation through a $26 billion settlement involving multiple states seeking damages from pharmaceutical companies Purdue Pharma, creator of the highly addictive OxyContin, and the company’s owners, the Sackler family.

The litigation also seeks damages from major distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. These companies are each credited with the distribution of large quantities of opioid painkillers, which have been linked with addiction and overdose deaths. Johnson & Johnson is also implicated as a manufacturer and marketer. 

The terms of the original litigation stipulated local communities, including Lawrence County, would receive only 15% of the $507 million settlement. The state was due to receive another 15%, with the remaining balance of 70% heading to the Indiana Family Social Services Administration. 

However, Commissioner Rodney Fish said Lawrence County will receive approximately $190,000 in restricted funds and $38,000 in non-restricted funds.

Rodney Fish

“We do not want to over promise and over perform,” added Fish.

Joe Diebert, with the Domestic Violence Coalition, who is passionate about the project, would like a portion of the funds to provide emergency shelter and help hire advocates for domestic violence victims.

The commissioners requested each to write up a plan for auditing purposes and submit it for consideration. Diebert did that.

Joe Diebert

“We are requesting $28,000 and some change. I have submitted a detailed plan on exactly how we will spend the money,” added Diebert. “But the story does not end there. This is a devastating issue of domestic violence. The problem is here. We need an emergency triage in place right now and a place for these victims to go. Becky’s Place has become a homeless shelter – but the only place to go, but they are not equipped to handle this, and that is a damn shame, a real shame.”

The Domestic Violence Coalition plans to have two beds available at all times, with a 1-800 number available to officers to find emergency housing for victims.

“This is critical,” added Diebert. “They will then have a 24 to 96-hour stay to find the victim needed services. We do not have that now. Currently, we have to go out of the county to find services… This community needs this. The opiate money is given to countries to save lives. All the work has been done we need some money. This is only a one-time request. But no one wants to touch this with a 10-foot pole, and we all should be ashamed of ourselves. Domestic violence is impacting people’s lives daily. We need to get this done.”

Fish said the County Council will have the final say in appropriating funds.

“We can submit our suggestions, but they will have the final say,” Fish added.