Health and Human Services

Changes to opioid fund usage amended, advanced

Rules governing a fund that contains state settlement dollars related to the opioid crisis would be modified to provide grants for prevention, treatment and research under a bill given second-round approval March 25.

Sen. Tony Vargas
Sen. Tony Vargas

Under LB1355, introduced by Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, the state would provide funds from the Nebraska Opioid Recovery Trust Fund to the state Department of Health and Human Services to address Nebraska’s opioid problem.

Vargas offered a select file amendment, adopted 41-0, that replaced the bill. He said the changes reflected work done by stakeholders, including DHHS and the governor’s office, after the bill’s first round of debate.

“A shared vision for how we can make the lives of Nebraskans safer and healthier made compromise possible,” Vargas said.

Among other changes, the amendment would make the following annual appropriations:
• $1.25 million to the Training Division Cash Fund;
• $400,000 to the HHS Cash Fund to carry out the Overdose Fatality Review Teams Act; and
• $3 million to the Opioid Prevention and Treatment Cash Fund, which the bill would create, to be distributed among the state’s behavioral health regions.

Any dollars provided to the behavioral health regions and not utilized would be “clawed back” to the settlement fund.

The amendment also states legislative intent that 25% of the total settlement funds received by the state be transferred to the Opioid Prevention and Treatment Cash Fund and 75% to the Opioid Treatment Infrastructure Cash Fund, which the amendment also would create.

Dollars appropriated to the infrastructure fund would be used for state and local public-private partnerships for entities engaged in opioid treatment, including capital construction and renovation. Administrative costs would be capped at 5%.

Also included in the amendment is legislative intent to appropriate $500,000 in general funds to DHHS for distribution to local public health departments for opioid use prevention and mediation. Funds appropriated for this purpose would be offset by a reduction in the state’s appropriation to the Behavior Health Aid program.

An appropriation of $250,000 in general funds in the amendment to support research on opioid addiction and misuse prevention at the University of Nebraska Medical Center also would be offset by a reduction in the Behavioral Health Aid appropriation.

Finally, regional behavioral health authorities and local public health departments would be required to report in even-numbered years regarding the use of funds.

Blair Sen. Ben Hansen, chairperson of the Health and Human Services Committee, supported the amendment, which he described as “forward thinking” in its effort to set aside funding for the expansion of treatment options in Nebraska.

Following adoption of an additional technical amendment offered by Vargas, lawmakers advanced LB1355 to final reading by voice vote.

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