Meet Lauren Carr, KACo’s Opioid Settlement Advisor
If it feels like opioid settlement funds are burning a hole in the proverbial pocket of your county’s fiscal court, you’re not alone. Kentucky counties face big decisions on how to use hundreds of millions of dollars designated for substance use prevention, treatment and recovery efforts in their community.
How can county officials best utilize funds to combat the opioid crisis? Should they hand over grants to a local organization and be done with it? Should they partner with other counties? How can counties be compliant with state reporting requirements?
A new member of the KACo team is here to help answer those questions and more: Opioid Settlement Advisor Lauren Carr.
“The opioid epidemic affects everybody, it doesn’t matter how small a county is or a how big it is,” Carr said. “We’ll be looking at different strategies counties can utilize, advocating best practices, talking about reporting requirements and how to really track the settlement funds to maintain and be in compliance.”
From pain to purpose
Carr, a native of Graves County, had no plans to work in field of addiction recovery when she was majoring in organization communication at Murray State University. But losing her older brother to a fentanyl overdose in 2011 opened Carr’s eyes to a growing area of need.
“I got into this [line of work] by pain, and my pain turned into my purpose,” she said.
Carr has worked with various substance use prevention initiatives and in harm reduction capacities to reduce overdose, prevent the spread of infectious disease and advocate for Kentuckians who suffer from substance use disorder. Prior to joining KACo, she was executive director of the Graves County Agency for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP).
“Lauren has been a tremendous asset to Graves County in dealing with substance abuse, addiction and the recovery process,” Graves County Commissioner Tyler Goodman said. “Her passion for people is very evident and because of her efforts, people in our community are more educated on the opioid epidemic. Lauren's ability to coordinate between different agencies, schools, treatment facilities and businesses have helped put numerous people and families on the path to recovery.”
In 2022, Carr and three Kentucky judge/executives – Gary Moore of Boone County, Dan Mosley of Harlan County and Reagan Taylor of Madison County – were named to the National Association of Counties (NACo) Opioid Solutions Leadership Network. The group has visited other states and met with national leaders to glean effective approaches and ideas for combating the opioid crisis.
Judge Mosley, who is also KACo’s President-elect, said he has enjoyed getting to know and working with Carr.
“The drug problem is the challenge of our time,” Mosley said. “Lauren brings a wealth of knowledge in this area to KACo. Her lived experience with the loss her own family has dealt with due to this issue is heartbreaking, but it inspires all of us to do more to help people, save lives and restore families. Lauren will be a major asset to counties across Kentucky in developing strategies on how best to combat this epidemic and properly invest opioid settlement funds.”
About the national opioid settlement
Since 2021, a coalition of states and their political subdivisions have reached multiple settlements with drug manufacturers, distributors, pharmacy chains and other companies for their roles in the proliferation of opioid addiction and overdoses.
According to the Attorney General’s office, K with 50 percent of that going to local governments and the other 50 percent administered by the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission.
County fiscal courts were sent their first settlement payments in December 2022 and will receive annual payments through 2038.
A plan in place
Broadly speaking, the settlement funds may only be used for opioid-abatement purposes. KRS 15.291 and 15.293 outline what those purposes are, and KACo is developing guidance on qualifying uses, such as prevention and treatment programs.
“It’s really important for counties to have a strategic plan in place, to see what needs exist in your community, and identify what barriers or gaps your community has,” Carr said. “Counties are eager to spend this money, they want to put it back out into the community, there are organizations doing the work, but how can we spread these dollars to have the most impact?”
Since joining KACo in January, Carr has been busy meeting with officials from the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission and county officials from across the state. She plans to host webinars, in-person training events and highlight innovative uses of settlement funds.
“We have the opportunity to make general change with these funds, so we want to set counties up for success.”
Lauren can be reached via email at email@example.com.