Mayor Jim Kenney and members of his administration unveiled plans for $23 million in Opioid Settlement funds coming to Philadelphia, the first of 18 annual installments.
The funds are the result of the national opioid settlement, a multi-billion dollar agreement reached with opioid manufacturers that will bring millions of dollars to Philadelphia, the bulk of which will be used to alleviate the effects of the opioid epidemic in the Kensington area of the city.
The announcement occurred at the McPherson Square Library in Kensington, an area that has been the epicenter of opioid use for decades.
Kenney said the epidemic has wrought incalculable harm in communities such as Kensington, and the city was committed to prevention, treatment, healing, and long-term change.
“Community investment is a core part of that commitment, and the settlement funding will help us pursue this goal,” Kenney said.
How Will the Funds Be Spent?
Overdose Prevention and Community Healing Fund-$3.5 million per year
- $3.1 million will be awarded to community-based organizations
- $400,000 will support the Kensington Community Resilience Fund
$7.5 million for Kensington Wellness Corridor Investments
- Funding for Kensington residents to maintain their homes and quell gentrification
- Provide assistance with home repairs, rent relief, and foreclosure support
- Grants for maintaining parks as safe and drug-free areas for youth
- Schools will receive funds for playground improvements, fencing, gates, and cameras
- Bonuses will be provided for hard-to-hire staff
Citywide Outreach and Engagement
- A focus on lowering the overdose risk among juvenile justice-involved youth
- Analyze gaps and missed opportunities for SUD (Substance Use Disorders) support services throughout the juvenile justice system
Black Maternal and Family Engagement
- Development of SUD trainings for child welfare involved staff
- Intersectional Maternal Mortality Support
- Analysis of system gaps for this population
Engage Faith-Based Communities
- Workshops for faith-based leaders
- Leverage the reach of faith-based communities
- Focus on culturally competent response to the overdose crisis
- Expand the provision of overdose prevention education and supports citywide
- Sustain Alternative Response-2
Housing for People Experiencing Homelessness
- Master leasing to reduce the inflow of homeless from jail
- Low-barrier housing directly from the street
- New Safe Haven for couples
- Tenant-based rental assistance
- Mobile Methadone Clinics
- Medicated Assisted Treatment Behind the Walls (treatment for those incarcerated)
- Kensington Wound Care Van and Clinic
Expanded Police-Assisted Diversion Programs
The funding comes when fatal overdoses are at the highest number ever recorded, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The 1276 deaths in 2021 are a 5% increase over overdose deaths from the previous year, with 82% involving opioids. 77% of all overdose fatalities involved fentanyl. Information for 2022 is not yet available.
Despite being at the center of a humanitarian crisis, librarians at the McPherson Square Library tend to their duties, steadfast in their commitment to the community.
Tuesday Chalmers, the Adult Teen Librarian at McPherson, said the library was a safe haven for the community.
“I feel like this is a diamond in the rough; people don’t know the love the community here has for each other and how well they help each other out,” Chalmers said. “I like being part of that community.”
Part of being in the community, at least for the librarians at McPherson, includes training on administering NARCAN, which Chalmers has utilized multiple times on people suffering from an overdose.
Brian Belknap is McPerhson’s LEAP Youth Advocate, a literacy enrichment after-school program serving, most days, 20 children.
“We want to make the children feel safe and welcomed here,” Belknap said. “We offer them lots of interesting things to do with the idea that they’ll mess around and try out new things.”
Belknap said the children often speak of the troubles in their neighborhood. Many of the children in the program know someone who has been shot, and some have friends who have died.
Still, despite the difficulties, people like Chalmers and Belknap keep working.
“(These kids) can’t go out and play,” Belknap said. “We’re one of the few safe places.”