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Lee County Board wants to expand health services with opioid settlement money

The North Lee County Courthouse in Ft. Madison
Iowa Judicial Branch
The North Lee County Courthouse in Ft. Madison

Lee County will receive more than $700,000 in settlement money from opioid producers and would like to use the money to expand its health and emergency services.

Lee County Board Supervisor Garry Seyb said the board wants to look into spending its share of the settlement to invest in its emergency management services and enhance its alcohol and drug counseling services. He said the county has just one drug and alcohol counseling office, located in Keokuk, which is staffed by eight counselors.

He also said that there is a greater needed for emergency medical services to afford more ambulances and first responders in Ft. Madison.

“We’ve had some unforeseen things that happened within the county,” Seyb said.

“The closure of the Keokuk hospital comes to mind, immediately. That caused us to further expand our ambulance service in the county, and that expansion cost the county over $1 million that we had not had in the county budget. So, we're looking at ways to be able to offset those expenditures.”

The county is already addressing needs for expanded health services by building a new 15,000-square-foot emergency management services building in Ft. Madison. The building will provide new office space for the county health department’s 30 employees and space for up to four ambulance bays.

Seyb said the county is waiting to hear if it will be allowed to spend its share of the opioid settlement money for those needs, exactly how much of the money it will receive, and if the county will receive the money in payments or one lump sum.

“We just want to have a structure in place to be able to put the funding into until we could clearly define a how much we're going to get and what are the rules for its expenditure,” he said.

“Some of the general rules that they've given to us right now is that it's got to be used to curb the opioid epidemic. We're looking for some clarification as to where does that money can go and if it can it be used for our health department.”

In the meantime, the board has agreed to place any money it receives from the settlement into an interest-bearing account.

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