Government, State Government

WV First Foundation continues foundational work

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia First Foundation, the organization that will distribute nearly $1 billion of opioid settlement funds, has adopted a mission statement and 11 guiding principles, but a timeline for reviewing and approving grants has not been set.

WFF Board President, Jefferson County Prosecutor, Matt Harvey said the process of developing the foundational principles was a great team-building exercise. The statement says in part, “Empowering West Virginians to prevent substance use disorder, support recovery, and save lives.”

“We all felt it was more impactful and important to have a mission statement that is this direct and short,” Harvey said. “So, we can all remember and convey it, and it’s easily understood.”

Much time was spent developing the guiding principles for the six regions to ensure there are clear standards in the public domain prior to any allocations.

“With a choir you always have to sing from the same sheet of music,” Harvey said at last week’s board meeting. “We now have our sheet of music and I know 100 percent that after going through this exercise we will be better board members and we will have a better foundation.”

WVFF Executive Director Jonathan Board said the principles were developed exclusively for West Virginia based on the severity of the impact felt.

“There are different wheels that must be positioned in different states and just because a wheel exists doesn’t mean you can’t create another, perhaps better wheel,” Board said. “I think these specific guiding principles represent those wheels for the state of West Virginia.”

The board also agreed to allow its budget and finance committee to begin working on the budget for the current and upcoming years.

As the meeting came to a close, board member and Region 3 representative Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce expressed frustration that none of the foundation money had been awarded yet to local communities. Joyce urged the board to consider developing timelines now that the foundation is nearly a year old.

“I’m a little disheartened that we’ve got the first full summer break for our youth, and we really haven’t put any of these monies to work here in communities in our region,” Joyce said. “I know our folks in Region 3 are chomping at the bit.”

The WVFF will manage and distribute 72.5% of the settlement funds with 24.5% is going directly to local governments. Three percent of the settlement funds will be held in escrow by the state to cover any outstanding legal expenses.