The Town of Plymouth will soon begin distributing its share of the more than $150 million the state has already received from opioid lawsuit settlements, officials said on Monday.

Plymouth, which had nine opioid-related deaths in 2022, has collected $399,000 so far and will be awarding grants to five agencies proposing innovative ways to tackle the epidemic, according to Michelle Bratti, the town’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services.

The new program has been named the Plymouth Addiction Response and Improvement Strategies Effort, or Plymouth ARISE.

The successful applicants are: Bay State Community Services, Inc.; Brockton Area Multi Services, Inc. (BAMSI); High Point Treatment Center, Inc.; Plymouth Public Schools; and To The Moon and Back.

To the Moon and Back is dedicated to helping children exposed to opioids before birth.

The nonprofit, described as the first of its kind in the nation, will use its grant to help Plymouth public schools and community agencies identify those at risk children and learn how to help them.

“We’ll be doing education on what to look for and how to intervene,” said Theresa Harmon, founder and president of To the Moon and Back.

“We want to start to develop best practices and care for these kids and change the system of care for the entire country,” said Harmon.

Children exposed to opioids, she said, can have long term educational and developmental physical and behavioral issues.

Separately, Plymouth Public Schools will use its grant to expand substance abuse prevention programs for older students and “positive youth development programming” for younger kids, according to its grant application. 

Over more than a decade, the town is expected to receive approximately $4 million in opioid settlement money.

But for now, it is giving out mini grants of up to $50,000 to the five agencies approved for funding.

Bratti said the town wasn’t looking for specific programs but “creative and impactful ways to combat the opioid epidemic in our community. “

She cited disturbing statistics — out of 27 communities in Plymouth County, she said, Plymouth had the second highest number of residents identified by law enforcement as at high risk of overdose incidents.

According to the Plymouth County Outreach, a group that represents the county’s police departments, there were 111 fatal overdoses in the county in 2023. That number represents an 11 percent decrease in fatal overdoses over 2022, said Victoria Butler, the organization’s executive director. 

State public health statistics show that opioid related deaths in Plymouth County increased 13.8 percent between 2012 and 2022 — the third highest increase of any Massachusetts county.

Under state rules, the town must spend the money on prevention, treatment, recovery, harm reduction or support for people in treatment or recovery, including pregnant women.

To solicit input from residents, the Plymouth Department of Health and Human Services in January held two public forums, at which residents urged the town to spend money on prevention and education, and to help those in “active use” or “active recovery” pay for basic needs,” Bratti said.

Massachusetts will receive $525 million over several decades, part of $26 billion awarded to 46 states as part of the national settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors sued for their role in the nation’s massive opioid crisis.

In dozen of lawsuits filed across the country, drug companies were accused of selling addictive painkillers without disclosing the risks, and pharmacies were alleged to have contributed to the crisis by failing to oversee the proper dispensing of opioids at their stores.

Under an agreement with cities and towns, 40 percent of the state’s settlement dollars will go to communities and 60 percent of the settlement dollars will go to the state’s Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund to pay for additional prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery programs throughout Massachusetts.

Bratti is the town’s first health and human services chief. Appointed in October, she oversees five town divisions — the Center for Active Living, Plymouth Public Library, Recreation, Public Health, and Veteran’s Services.

Andrea Estes can be reached at

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