DeWine names leader of private foundation established with public opioid settlement funds
Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has named the first-ever leader of a private, nonprofit organization that will oversee prevention and recovery efforts with money from opioid settlements. And it's someone who has previously worked with DeWine on drug prevention and recovery efforts.
DeWine has appointed Alisha Nelson as the first executive director of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation. Nelson has led anti-drug efforts for DeWine, both when he was attorney general and during his current time as governor.
The OneOhio Recovery Foundation is a private, nonprofit entity established in a legal settlement in 2021, with 55% of opioid settlements involving the state going to OneOhio. Another 15% of settlements will go to the state itself. And 30% will go to local governments. DeWine said the OneOhio Recovery fund will ensure that every community will have money for drug prevention and recovery efforts.
“We could have had a situation where one city in Ohio got a ton of money and another city got zero. And that just didn't make sense," DeWine said.
A 29-member board oversees the OneOhio Recovery Foundation. It includes eight appointed board members by various metropolitan regions of the state and 11 members from the foundation's non-metropolitan regions. Four statewide appointees are selected by leaders of the Ohio General Assembly, one is appointed by the attorney general and five are chosen by the governor.
DeWine said it will be up to Nelson and that 29-member board to come up with rules for how the money should be handled.
"What I envision OneOhio doing is trying, frankly, to sort out how this money should be best spent and how can it be spent over a long period of time to have the most impact. So that will be their decision. It will not be my decision," DeWine said.
This isn't the first non-profit, private entity the state has been involved with. The state's private corporation for economic development JobsOhio was created in 2011 and is funded with profits from state liquor sales. Like JobsOhio, the OneOhio Recovery Foundation has regular board meetings. And a spokesperson notes those meetings are open to the public and that meeting materials are available on its website.
A lawsuit filed by Harm Reduction Ohio resulted in an Ohio Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that the foundation is subject to the state's open records laws. The state budget included a provision that overruled that decision, saying the foundation isn't a public entity. Because the foundation is private, some information can be shielded from public records laws.
DeWine was asked about whether this board would play any role if voters pass the initiated statute on the November ballot to allow legal sales and use of marijuana by Ohioans who are 21 years old or older.
He said the board and leadership would make all decisions and he was "not going to speculate (as to) what they would do."
Nelson does not have to be confirmed by the Ohio Senate.