ITHACA, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Legislature’s Opioid Task Force (OTF) released its determinations of which local organizations and specific projects will be receiving opioid settlement funds to provide care and education in the coming months. 

The recommendations were approved by the Health and Human Services Committee at its meeting Aug. 21, and will be brought to the table for a final vote the next time the legislature meets on Sept. 5. 

The county received $722,374.02 from the state in lieu of settlements from various lawsuits against the pharmaceutical opioid industry the county was party to. The funds will be distributed to the organizations after the recommendations are approved by the legislature, according to AJ Kircher, overdose prevention advocate and task force member.

Drug-related overdose deaths have significantly increased in Tompkins County in 2023, with 17 deaths reported in just the first half of the year, from January to June. If overdose deaths continue to be reported at this rate, the county could see 34 total by the end of this year. Over the course of last year, 28 total overdose deaths were reported. 

TCWH issued a health alert 12 days before the task force presented its recommendations to warn residents of the marked increase in opioid-related overdoses. 

The task force came up with the recommendations in part based on feedback from a community-wide survey it created to determine how best to use the settlement funds. Kircher said nearly 600 responses were collected after it was distributed May 5.

Fifteen detailed applications were submitted to the task force from nonprofits and other community organizations that sought funding and outlined the amount needed and for what project or purpose. 

Committee Chair Dan Klein said during the meeting that the legislature recieving this funding is a “one-time deal, as far as the legislators know,” and is not funded by taxpayers. 

He said the committee had to adhere to certain restrictions on the funding, and the legislators “feel like [they’re] using it exactly as it was meant to be used.” 

Applicants requested $1.3 million in funding in total, and according to Kircher, the task force was only able to reward about half of what was requested. 

However, the task force advised organizations that were not selected for funding update their applications and reapply in the case future funds were to become available for distribution.

As a mother who has lost her child to an overdose, Kircher said she has concerns about the task force being disbanded now that the decision of where the settlement funds will be allocated has been made. 

“There are a lot of things we have not touched the surface of,” Kircher said. 

Klein confirmed after the meeting that the task force will be disbanded, as “these recommendations were their only charge.” 

Projects and Organizations recommended for funding by the OTF:

OrganizationProjects and initiatives approved for fundingAgreed Funding AmountFunding Specifics/Recommendations from the Opioid Task Force
Respectful, Equitable, Access to Compassionate Health Care (REACH) Project REACH Community Wrap-around Services for overdose prevention and wellness$129,000.00No recommendations were issued by the OTF.
Cayuga Addiction and Recovery Services (CARS)CARS of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Services and workforce capacity $104,233.00OTF recommends:
$10,800 of funding be use to purchase of Narcan vending machine.
Tompkins County Public Library (TCPL) Shelf-Help at TCPL: Helping to Keep Our Community Safe $37,500.00OTF recommends:
Funding not to be used for the purchase of library branded items.
$10,000 for replenishing books and education resources for adults and youth).
$5,000 to support development and follow-through of a guest speaker series.
Opportunities, Alternatives, Resources (OAR) Peer Crossing $163,587.00OTF recommends:
OAR use funds only for residents in Tompkins County and that funds will not be used for rent that is already being funded by the county (3 years of rent for 2-4 residents).
Tompkins, Seneca, Tioga-Board of Cooperative Education Services School Health Initiative Project TEACH Fellowship $107,000.00No recommendations were issued by the OTF.
Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County Transportation to care and supports$58,679.00No recommendations were issued by the OTF.
Finger Lakes ReUseReUse Skills Training for Tompkins County residents in recovery $115,375.00OTF recommends:
Partial funding to be used for additional staffing.
Ithaca United Soccer Club Drug overdose education and prevention for athletes$7,000OTF recommends:
IUSC specify awareness events are to be hosted in conjunction with an ongoing sporting event.

Judy Lucas is a General Assignment Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Have a story idea? Comment or question? You can reach me at or on Twitter @judy__lucas.