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Philly plans to fight opioid epidemic with settlement funds

Philadelphia plans to fight opioid epidemic with settlement funds
Philadelphia plans to fight opioid epidemic with settlement funds 01:58

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The opioid crisis is hitting Philadelphia particularly hard. In 2021, there were nearly 1,300 overdose deaths in the city, but now, city leaders came up with a new plan to fight the epidemic.  

"I want to walk freely. I want to be able to say that change has come," Patrice Rogers from the group Stop the Risk said.

Rogers has high hopes for her Kensington neighborhood. She founded Stop the Risk, an outreach program for people facing drug addiction and experiencing homelessness. 

"These people need to be back home with their loved ones," Rogers said. "We need more community, more development, more jobs. We need revenue back down here."

On Thursday, the city released details on its Overdose Prevention and Community Healing Fund. The $200 million fund comes from a settlement with opioid manufacturers

"This is an investment in community self-determination," Casey O'Donnell, from Impact Services, said. "Sometimes, as a lifelong Philadelphian, I question if we believe in that concept."

The initial focus will be on Kensington, which has become ground zero for the open-air drug market. The $200 million will be paid out over 18 years. This year's initial investment of $20 million will go to community groups, treatment services, housing and overdose response. 

"Hopefully, these specific investments will help those suffering from addiction from being unsheltered will help families and children who have suffered from the crime of living here," Dr. Bill McKinney, executive director of New Kensington Community Development Corp., said.

The speakers admitted that past plans have failed but are also convinced this plan will work.

"We're spending a lot of money and we have to know if that money is being spent in the right places," Councilman Mark Squilla, 1st district, said.

Squilla represents Kensington. He says an oversight committee will be established in City Hall but community groups in Kensington will also gauge progress.

As for Rogers, while she is hopeful, she also knows success isn't guaranteed.

"You can push the money, you can push the money," she said, "but what are you actually doing? What change will actually come from it?"

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