Littleton council discusses possible uses for opioid settlement revenue

Nina Joss
Posted 9/15/23

Over the next 18 years, Littleton will receive about $1.2 million in opioid settlement funds.

At a study session on Sept. 12, the city council directed staff to put Littleton’s first …

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Littleton council discusses possible uses for opioid settlement revenue


Over the next 18 years, Littleton will receive about $1.2 million in opioid settlement funds.

At a study session on Sept. 12, the city council directed staff to put Littleton’s first batch of money from these settlements towards funding the police department’s mental health co-responder program, which is contracted through AllHealth Network.

The funds come from national settlements from pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers who are paying for the harm they did in the opioid pandemic, said Elizabeth Watts, management fellow in the city manager’s office.

The money from the first two settlements will be paid out over the next 18 years, with 10% going to the state, 10% to an abatement council, 60% to regions and 20% to participating local governments, Watts said.

For the first three years of payments – which includes 2021, 2022 and 2023 – Littleton has received or will receive about $40,000 per year, City Manager Jim Becklenberg said.

The funds must be used in the areas of prevention, treatment, recovery, criminal justice or harm reduction.

The city could decide to use these funds locally or route them to the Arapahoe County Regional Council, which governs Region 9 of the opioid settlement map, to support regional programs that would benefit Littleton.

Instead of putting the money towards regional solutions, the city council directed staff to use the first batch of payments to focus on specific solutions within Littleton.

This money will go towards the city’s mental health co-responder program in the police department, Becklenberg said. The program pairs mental health professionals with law enforcement officers to respond to calls related to mental health, substance use and more.

Using the opioid settlement funds to support this program will free up about $40,000 per year for the next three years from the city’s general fund, which the city can apply elsewhere.

As the city receives future opioid settlement funds, it can consider collaborating with the region on future projects, Becklenberg said.

Staff's recommendation

During the study session, staff recommended the city put its funds toward the regional solutions that the Arapahoe County Regional Council is already planning.

The regional council plans to allocate its regional funds to detox and substance use disorder centers, peer navigators, harm reduction, co-responders and a student leadership program, Watts said.

“A lot of the same categories that have been identified by the region are going to benefit Littleton as well,” Watts said. “People are not necessarily confined by their boundaries.”

Putting Littleton’s funds towards the regional solutions could help support these large-scale solutions that Littleton could not do on its own, Watts said.

She also noted that Littleton could have to pay fees in the future to utilize regional resources if they do not route their funds toward the regional solutions.

Keeping it local

District 2 Council Member Jerry Valdes pushed back on the idea that the funds could be more impactful at a regional level.

He said routing the funds through the regional council would “create, essentially, another government entity,” when the city could, instead, approach the issue on a more direct scale through local nonprofits.

“We know what our citizens want, what our citizens need,” he said. ”I would rather see it stay small, myself. I would rather see the money go right to our citizens through smaller groups that are dealing with these people daily.”

Watts said it is important for the council to consider that the opioid settlement funding will not last forever, so any of the funding they contribute to local programs will stop someday.

Instead of funding local nonprofits, Mayor Pro Tem Gretchen Rydin said she thought the city should put the money towards city-run programs.

“We already know what the needs are,” she said. “We could just give (money) to wherever we want to fund something specific that’s in line with our goals as a council … When we think of safety, for example, and the mental health piece that we associate with some of that – there’s work we could do there that would fit our own goals.”

Becklenberg said the clearest use within the city would be the co-responder program. This idea gained wide support from the council.

Becklenberg said the city’s recommended budget aims to put $143,000 towards adding one additional co-responder and a case manager to the city’s co-responder team through AllHealth Network.

The opioid settlement funds, he said, will offset some of that cost so the city can use some of those general fund dollars elsewhere.

Staff will present a budget with these recommendations in November.

littleton, colorado, opioid settlement


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