Florida DCF distributes over $97 million to combat opioid epidemic


Shane Ersland


The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has distributed over $97 million in settlement funds over the past four months to help combat the state’s opioid crisis.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody finalized several settlement agreements with pharmaceutical companies last year that secured billions of dollars to abate the opioid epidemic over the next 17 years. Lawmakers discussed the funding during an Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services meeting earlier this month. 

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James Percival, Moody’s chief of staff, said the office has recovered over $3.14 billion, which will be shared with cities and counties as part of the settlements. Approximately 49 percent (over $1.5 billion) of the funds will be issued to the state. Approximately 15 percent of the funds will be paid to each city or county that took part in the settlements. And the remaining 36 percent will be split between large counties (qualified counties) and small counties (nonqualified counties). 

“Qualified counties get their share directly (and) their municipalities determine how the funds are spent. In nonqualified counties, the legislature determines how the funds will be spent through regional managing entities. All of the funds are to be spent abating the opioid epidemic.”

— Percival

The funds were frontloaded, with almost $400 million distributed over the first year of the settlement, Percival said. Funding amounts will decrease over the following years. The legislature received $205 million last year for the state’s portion of funds. 

The regional portion of settlement funds were distributed throughout each of the DCF six designated regions. The Northeast region (including Duval, Hamilton, and Putnam counties) received the most money at nearly $10.4 million. 

DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris said the department received $153.5 million for fiscal year 2023-24. 

“Over the last four months, the department has had the opportunity to distribute over $97 million in opioid settlement funds. Our chief goal was to ensure that those dollars were distributed and put to use immediately.”

— Harris

DCF focused on several core areas to distribute funds, which include: 

  • Primary prevention and media campaigns ($25.4 million)
  • Local projects ($13.9 million)
  • Research and information technology ($11.4 million)
  • An overdose prevention through naloxone saturation plan ($10 million) 
  • Recovery housing through Oxford Houses ($8.7 million)
  • Workforce and workforce development ($8.3 million) 

Sen. Darryl Ervin Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) asked about DCF’s sustainability plan for fighting the opioid epidemic.

“There’s currently $14 million in local projects,” Rouson said. “It’s all nonrecurring. What was the thought behind making some of these projects nonrecurring? What about sustainability?”

Since the funds were frontloaded in the first year, DCF’s expectation with disbursement was to offer seed money to counties or individual providers, Harris said. 

“And in doing so, with those contracts, it was expressed to them that this was seed money for them to establish infrastructure, do training, (or) build workforce to be able to support ongoing efforts,” Harris said. “The counties and cities also have funds. Our hope is the counties, cities, and those with additional funds would do a graded funding approach to be able to sustain the work that was initiated through year-one funding.”