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Health & Science

Cuyahoga County Using Opioid Settlement Money to Help Women Battle Addiction

A photo of a person putting pills from a bottle into their hand.
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Some $2.3 million from Cuyahoga County's 2019 opioid settlement with Johnson & Johnson will be used to hire two social workers and a support team, county leaders announced in a Friday news briefing.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the opioid epidemic, Cuyahoga County announced plans to use millions from its 2019 opioid settlement with Johnson & Johnson to support women and infants dealing with substance use disorders.

The county will allocate $2.3 million to Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine's RISE Moms and RISE Peds, two programs aimed at providing long-term treatment and recovery services for mothers and children dealing with opioid addiction.

The money will be used to hire two social workers and support a team of obstetrics and pediatric experts, as well as create an evaluation program.

The funds will come from a 2019 litigation settlement with Johnson & Johnson, where the county accepted $117 million from drug companies to settle federal opioid lawsuits.

“We want mothers to be successful in spite of their substance use issues, by providing them with helpful resources to support their ongoing recovery,” County Executive Armond Budish said in a Friday press conference.

The RISE programs at CWRU are part of the school’s infant mortality reduction efforts alongside First Year Cleveland, a coalition of organizations aimed at reducing the infant mortality rate in Cuyahoga County.

“The goal of our RISE program is to surround mom with a team of experts throughout her journey, while keeping mom and baby together as much as possible,” said Dr. Marlene Miller, chair of pediatrics at Rainbow Babies and Children’s. “This will create opportunities for mom and her care team to overcome barriers that may arise over the recovery journey, and ultimately lead to healthy and happy mother-child relationships."

Cuyahoga County is on track to see more than 700 opioid deaths this year – which would be the highest number since 2017, Budish said.

County officials also announced plans for two new job training programs, focused on getting more minorities into the building trades, in response to the jobs lost during the pandemic.

If the collective bargaining agreement is approved by Cuyahoga County Council, the county will embark on a jobs program with a non-profit called Cleveland Builds, which would provide education and training for trades such as electricians, carpenters and plumbers, Budish said.

The county will hire pre-apprentices as temporary full-time employees, placing them with a journeyman foreman as a mentor. Then, they will enter a full apprenticeship, he said.

“The program helps build a needed pipeline of trades personnel, and creates a more diverse workforce with good-paying jobs,” Budish said.

The county will also expand diversity in hiring options from the trade council, Budish added.

Cuyahoga County sees rise in teens with COVID-19 as overall cases, deaths, hospitalizations decline

Cuyahoga County’s COVID-19 case rates are decreasing, following a statewide trend, said Health Commissioner Terry Allan.

The county is reporting about 50 cases per day, and the testing positivity rate – which measures the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in the county – has dropped from 4.1 percent at the end of April to 3.3 percent, according to county data.

Teen cases have increased, however, and Allan said the board of health has advised superintendents to continue masking and distancing in schools.

Additionally, 51 percent of residents – roughly 625,000 people – have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Allan said.

“We continue to see incremental improvements in vaccination rates across race and ethnicity, and we are concentrating our efforts on continued improvements,” Allan said.

Nearly 80 percent of adults aged 65 and over in the county are fully vaccinated, which has helped the hospitalization and death rates drop, he added.

While utilization at county hospitals has remained steadily at about 80 percent, Allan said that’s not all due to COVID-19.

“They’re seeing COVID in the hospitals, but it’s been down significantly. Much of the utilization … in terms of medical beds, [is] because of delayed care and elective surgeries and other procedures people are seeking,” he said.

In addition, ventilator usage in the hospitals is trending down, Allan added.

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