EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—Menominee County will participate in a national effort to obtain settlement funds from major opioid distributors and a drug manufacturer, Menominee County Commissioners agreed at their regular board meeting Tuesday.

Opioid maker Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, and pharmaceutical distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen are expected to pay about $26 billion in settlement funds nationally with about $22.7 billion to be used by states and local areas to address the opioid crisis, according to a letter the county received.

“Our Michigan Association of Counties recommended we be a part of it. There wasn’t any money coming out of the county for it. We agreed to be a part of it,” said Commissioner Gerald Piche.

Half of the opioid abatement funds will be provided in incentive payments to areas with the greatest participation. Information will be available on the settlement website at https://nationalopioidsettlement.com.

In other news from the County Board, Piche said Pinecrest Medical Care Facility in Powers will receive grant funds. Pinecrest applied for a Hannahville 2% grant for “Alternate Care Site, Infrastructure” and was approved for $12,546, County Administrative Assistant Sherry DuPont said in response to the EagleHerald’s request for information.

Pinecrest, which receives funds from Menominee, Dickinson and Delta counties, is underfunded because of state COVID-19 guidelines that require it to have beds available for COVID patients, Piche said.

“There has to be so many beds that are available for people who get the COVID-19. They have to reserve so many so say there is a major outbreak, they’d be taken care of. It makes it hard on the facility,” Piche said. “Whenever you have to leave rooms empty you’re losing funds.”

Pinecrest Administrator Dana Smith said the facility now places patients who test positive for COVID-19 in a greenhouse. “That totally gets that resident out of our facility,” Smith said. She joined Pinecrest about four months ago. “Prior to me, I think they kept them in the nursing home itself,” she said.

Smith said two patients were being cared for in the greenhouse Thursday. According to board minutes from Pinecrest Medical Care’s Sept. 23 board meeting, which were provided in the county board meeting agenda, two of four Pinecrest residents who tested positive for COVID-19 in September had been vaccinated. One of the unvaccinated COVID patients died, Smith said.

“We haven’t had many residents test positive. But there was one or two that were vaccinated that did test positive, but their symptoms were minimal,” Smith said.

In September, six of seven staff members who tested positive were unvaccinated, according to Pinecrest board minutes. Smith said she doesn’t know why the staff members weren’t vaccinated.

“We are asking people to be vaccinated, but with the mandate coming through now, they’re going to be vaccinated or (they’re) not to be able to work here unless there is religious or health issues,” she said.

Pinecrest tests staff twice per week and residents once per week for COVID, Smith said. It provides flu shots and the pneumococcal vaccine to staff members but does not require them, she said.

In a closed session, the county board discussed purchasing Hangar #14 B at Menominee Regional Airport. The board approved making the purchase for $18,500, DuPont said.

The date of the next board meeting was moved to Nov. 30.