Will’s Place receives opioid settlement money despite questions from commissioner

Published 6:48 pm Sunday, October 9, 2022

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A recovery resource center received opioid settlement funds at last week’s meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners. However, one commissioner had questions for the facility’s founder before the resolution was approved.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to contract with Will’s Place for $45,000 in opioid settlement funds for services to the county.

County Manager Andy Lucas requested commissioners contract with Will’s Place from Nov. 1 to Oct. 31, 2023. The contract was for recovery support services for “hosting 12-step meetings, providing recovery coaching, providing transportation for individuals to opioid misuse disorder related detox, treatment and recovery programming,” according to an agenda for the meeting.

Will’s Place will invoice the county on a monthly basis, Lucas said. The contract has accountability and performance standards.

Several years ago, a Health Resources and Services Administration grant (HRSA) gave the county $1 million to work on planning and infrastructure around dealing with opioid use, Lucas added.

Commissioners’ packets included a letter of support from Stanly Health and Human Services Director David Jenkins for a $45,000 request of opioid settlement funds for Will’s Place.

Commissioner Peter Asciutto asked how much of the total budget from Will’s Place in the last few years came from HRSA funds.

Allison Hudson Mingle, founder and president of Will’s Place in Albemarle, was not part of the presentation, but she was in the audience and responded to questions.

In 2019, Will’s Place had a revenue of approximately $106,000, with $26,000 coming from HRSA funds administered by the county. The number rose in 2020 to $41,000 of the facility’s $66,000 in revenue.

Asciuttto said a van purchased by Will’s Place with HRSA funds had to be taken back by the county “for not following through with whatever had to happen there.”

Lucas said the programs the county recommended have contracts, adding “we don’t want these entities to continue to come back to the well. They need to sustain themselves and find other sources of funding.”

He said the opioid money will run out in 18 years and will be reduced in the later years of the agreement.

Will’s Place has also received $1.5 million in state funds to go to the renovation of a new headquarters on North 1st Street near the YMCA Park.

In an email Oct. 4 sent to county commissioners, Mingle responded to Asciutto’s comments, saying the organization has not received HRSA funds since 2020.

The 2019 funds were used for the employment of Delton Russell, the executive director at the time, she wrote. Russell was employed from Sept. 1, 2019 to Oct. 8, 2020.

Mingle said in the email she met with Jennifer Layton of the Health Department virtually in November 2020 about the HRSA grant responsibilities.

“After meeting with Ms. Layton, our board decided that it was not comfortable, nor did we think it was the Health Department’s place to have them involved in the recruitment and hiring of our next director,” the email stated.

Mingle said she received a HRSA termination letter from Layton and Jenkins in March 2021 which stated “due to the lack of a qualified executive director to provide the following services, Stanly County Health Department is terminating the contract signed on September 25, 2019.”

Mingle said she was involved with daily work despite not having an executive director. She said there were no gaps in providing services in the grant with two exceptions: assisting with training first responders in recovery language and crisis intervention training.

On Oct. 4, Asciutto said his concern was Mingle “did not follow the guidelines for that grant.” He said his other concern was “the percentage of funding we were giving to a nonprofit of their total revenue.”

He said his vote for the resolution was “to give them the opportunity to get it done right this next time around.”

Asciutto said Will’s Place is “doing good things for the community. But when it comes to taxpayer money, you have to be sure it is utilized properly.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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