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Lee commissioners OK opioid plan contracts, add to community development and accept state housing and utility funds


The Lee Board of County Commissioners approved contacts Tuesday on opioid addiction, added to the Department of Community Development and accepted state funds to help with housing and utilities.

The board voted to approve contracts with two organizations to provide services for people with opioid addiction and expand prevention and education programs. The annual contracts, with Centerstone of Florida Inc. and Kimmie’s Recovery Zone, will provide services to an estimated 320 adults.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Lee Board of County Commissioners took legal action against pharmaceutical companies that resulted in an Opioid Abatement Plan that requires funding allocation to respond to the epidemic. Lee County is to receive $26 million during the next 18 years.

Lee County has designated the long-standing Public Safety Coordinating Council as the local task force to address the opioid epidemic. Identified strategies include implementing a coordinated system of care to address behavioral health needs, expanding prevention and education programs, increasing availability and training in the use of overdose reversal medications and increasing access to treatment.

Department of Community Development

The board also voted to approve the immediate creation of 23 new positions within the Department of Community Development to address increasing building permit volumes.

Increased permitting volumes are projected to continue over the next several years as Lee County’s population continues to grow and as residents continue to rebuild following Hurricane Ian. From Oct. 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, Staff accepted 72,516 permit applications, 45,411 of which were identified by the applicant as being hurricane related. Staff issued 68,362 permits, 43,006 of which were identified by the applicant as being hurricane related.

In the same period, 207,056 inspections were requested and 131,323 inspections were completed, of which 108,831 were hurricane related.

The estimated cost of the 23 new positions for the remainder of the current fiscal year, including benefits, indirect, computers, licenses, and vehicles − for Building Inspectors only − is $806,033. For the next full fiscal year 23/24, this equates to a $2.8 million increase over the proposed budget.

Community Development has implemented strategies to address permit backlog and review times, including filling of all vacancies, shifting internal staff resources as available, paying overtime, and using consultants.

In February, the Board of County Commissioners authorized a mid-year budget adjustment to hire 11 new positions to address permitting demands amplified by recovery following Hurricane Ian. Building Services operations are funded by building permit fees as permitted under Florida Statutes. There are currently 113 positions in DCD funded by building permit fees.

State housing, utility funds

Commissioners accepted funding Tuesday from the Florida Department of Commerce to assist qualifying families with housing and utilities expenses.

The funding accepted includes:

  • $2.25 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program used to assist income-qualifying households − income at or below 150% of the federal poverty level − with home energy costs. About 4,500 households will be assisted through June 30, 2024.
  • $319,672 to assist eligible households − income at or below 150% of the federal poverty level − with water and wastewater costs to prevent disconnection and or rate reduction. Funds must be expended by Sept. 30. An estimated 582 households will be assisted.
  • $489,233 for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). About 246 households will be provided assistance to remain in stable housing or to obtain permanent housing. Qualifying households must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Funds must be expended by June 30, 2024.

Persons who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness should contact Coordinated Entry at 239-533-7996 to receive an assessment for housing and services.

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