Forty-six states are in the process of disbursing $26 billion in opioid settlement money – that money may balloon to about $50 billion.

In New York, there are two bodies that direct the flow of settlement funds to the people who need help: the New York State Office of Addiction Services & Supports (OASAS), and the Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board, which was established in 2022 to provide OASAS with recommendations regarding how that funding should be allocated.

While there has been criticism of OASAS for what some have called the slow roll-out of funding, Debra Pantin, chair of the Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board, told Capital Tonight that, compared to other states, New York is doing a good job getting money out the door.

“New York is doing well because we have gotten about $192 million awarded to different providers throughout the state,” said Pantin, who is also the president and CEO of Outreach, a recovery and treatment center in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island.

According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, New York is among the states receiving the most opioid settlement money.

But along with the rest of the board, Pantin is concerned that the process is too slow.

“At the last meeting, we asked the state to help us understand where they are in the process with the number of providers that have received these funds that have been awarded,” she explained. 

One reason critics have been urging OASAS to speed up the process is that New York’s opioid overdose death rates exceeded national rates in 2020 and 2021, according to the state comptroller.

Pantin said the board acknowledges the problem.

“As a board, we selected to do an RFP process and to go through the state process, and unfortunately the state process is a process,” she said. “And we’re trying to understand that process. Is it going as fast as it could? Is there a slowness in the pipeline for some reason?”

A spokesperson for OASAS said in a statement, “We are thankful to Chair Pantin and the rest of the board members for their ongoing work, which is making a difference and saving lives across the state. New York continues to be a national leader in getting this money out — making available the full $192 million in FY23 funding faster than any state in the nation. In addition to the more than $192 million made available from the Fiscal Year 2023 funding, we have also made $144 million in 2024 funding available, as we continue to work to address the effects of this crisis and support the communities and organizations who need it most.”

Another problem facing providers serving this community is one that many organizations face: a lack of workers.

“Even though providers are awarded contracts, for the providers to identify workforce – individuals to hire, to start these initiatives and to do these programs – that also slows down the process,” she said. “As a board, we are definitely looking into this issue.”

Pantin also commented on another brewing battle in the state: While several opioid antagonists have been approved by the FDA, New York state has only approved one, Narcan. When asked why, Pantin said it was a good question. 

“Again, from the standpoint of a provider, I think it’s for us to continue to encourage the state to allow us to have as many opportunities as possible.. and … tools at our disposal to help individuals as they struggle with this epidemic,” she said.