ROCHESTER — Funds from national opioid settlements will help Olmsted County expand its efforts to provide outreach to a growing number of people struggling with opioid addiction.

County commissioners approved a plan Tuesday to hire three new fulltime staff members — a social worker to coordinate efforts, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and a peer-recovery specialist — to expand Olmsted County’s Diversity, Equity and Community Outreach team.

The team, which embeds social workers with Rochester police and Olmsted County deputies, was created to respond to mental health calls, but has seen increased calls related to opioid use and overdoses.

The added staff, which is expected to cost $339,000 per year, help the outreach team address overdose calls and followup, as well as provide a focus on creating access and training related to naloxone, a drug that can prevent opioid overdoses.

The team will also seek to increase community education and prevention efforts connected to opioid use, while building community partnerships.

The work outlined focuses on needs identified by advisory groups of representatives from county agencies and local service providers, who are dealing with addiction concerns. The groups were pulled together by Olmsted County Public Health to offer insight into how funds from national settlements in lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors should be used.

Olmsted County expects to receive at least $7.2 million through the settlements, with payments being spread throughout 18 years.

More than $1.7 million is expected to be in the county’s account by the end of 2023.

Deputy County Administrator Travis Gransee said that will be more than enough to cover the expansion of the community outreach team, so the added funds will be held to cover costs in future years.

“The cash flow for this program is going to be interesting,” he said, pointing out some years will see reduced funds, while others could see more.

The county established the three-person proposal based on what could be fully funded through the 18-year period without needing local tax dollars.

While a fourth outreach team member was originally recommended, the county opted to hold off based on available funding.

Gransee said Tuesday discussions have started with Rochester city officials to consider use of the city’s portion of settlement funds to bolster the team.

“We don’t know if the city dollars will cover the cost of a fourth person,” he said, adding that discussions will continue and any city support will require Rochester City Council approval.

With some funds left in its anticipated balance, the county can consider other uses for the settlement funds, but any use must be aimed at addressing local concerns related to the opioid epidemic.

One additional use was approved by commissioners Tuesday. They allocated $17,000 annually to utilize a web-based platform as a way of providing increased mental health and addiction resources to county residents and businesses.

Known as Credible- Mind, the online resource is expected to create a localized, wellness-oriented platform that employers, insurers, health care providers and community organizations can use to support consumer-centric engagement.

Local nonprofits and other groups will be asked to join the county in providing links to resources on the created website.

Abby Tricker, an Olmsted County Public Health community health specialist, said the community outreach expansion and new online resource are intended to address ongoing concerns.

“Our goal is to not only keep our community safe but also provide pathways to health and wellbeing for those affected by the opioid epidemic,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “The result of these efforts could prove vital for reducing the high toll of opioid related deaths in the region.”

Gransee said future proposals for using the settlement funds could emerge. “There might be other strategies that come forward in the next 18 years,” he said, adding that county staff will continue to monitor needs in efforts to stem opioid fatalities and other impacts related to the drug.

What happened: Olmsted County commissioners approved spending a portion of its settlement funds from national opioid lawsuits on expanding its community outreach program.

Why does this matter: The funds, with are expected to total $7.2 million over 18 years, will allow the county’s Diversity, Equity and Community Outreach team to add members that will specialize in calls to respond to drug overdoses.

What’s next: The county will hire additional staff to fill the three new positions.