Opioid settlement funding will continue for 11 to 18 years, and it is expected that more settlements will be forthcoming. Is your agency getting its share?
This article was originally published on March 11, 2022. It has been significantly updated.
Nationwide, communities continue to battle the effects of the opioid crisis. Litigation brought by states against drug distributors, manufacturers and pharmacy chains has produced opioid settlement funding designed to bring relief to communities affected by the epidemic.
For public safety agencies, including EMS, fire service, law enforcement and corrections, opioid settlement funding may be tapped for a variety of purposes. For this reason, public safety leaders must understand the basics of the settlements, how funds will be distributed and how your agency may be able to tap into funding in a responsible manner.
In 2022, opioid settlements were reached with the drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, along with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.
A total of $26 billion was included in the settlement, with the three distributors paying $21 billion and Johnson & Johnson paying $5 billion.
In late 2022, additional opioid settlement funding agreements were announced with three pharmacy chains – CVS, Walgreens and Walmart – and two additional manufacturers, Allergan and Teva.
The agreements are structured so that the greater the level of subdivision participation, the more funds will ultimately be paid out for abatement.
Assuming maximum participation, these settlements require:
Every state’s strategy to spend opioid settlement funding varies, as does the distribution process. Funding is originating from the federal Attorney General’s office and is landing first at each state Attorney General’s office. Some states are running the funds through regional task forces and others through foundations.
States will receive funds based on the impact of the opioid epidemic in their state. The share of the impact is calculated using data such as the amount of opioids shipped to the state, the number of opioid‐related deaths that occurred in the state and the number of people who suffer opioid use disorder in the state.
The settlements require 85% of funds be allocated to programs that will help address the ongoing opioid crisis through treatment, education and prevention efforts. A majority of states have already passed agreements that dictate how funds will be distributed between state and local subdivision governments, and funds started reaching communities last year.
The settlements allow for a broad range of approved abatement uses by state and local governments. The list of pre-approved uses includes a wide range of intervention, treatment, education and recovery services so that state and local governments can decide what will best serve their communities. Although specifics vary by state, we can expect police, corrections, fire and EMS to benefit from the effects of the opioid-remediation efforts funded by the settlements and the injunctive relief the settlements provide.
Eligible uses of funds generally include:
While the funds will be used for programs across local government—including schools, health care providers, community outreach and recovery programs—there are obvious alignments with public safety needs.
State plans also outline many uses that will have a direct impact on first responders. States have developed guidance for distributing the opioid settlement funding. Here are some examples specific to how the funds may be used to support public safety:
What steps should public safety leaders take next? In a word, advocate for your needs. Contact your state Attorney General’s office for guidance on how to present your request. As stated, each state, county, city and local area will determine how funds can be spent.
Review the guidance from your state MOU and federal Attorney General’s list of opioid remediation uses before you contact your local government. Be prepared to address which abatement and mitigation efforts will help address the crisis in your community. What has the opioid epidemic done to your community? How has it affected your department in terms of response times, training and equipment? Is your local government body aware? What data supports your needs for training, wellness programs, equipment, etc.?
Advocacy is a means to get your response agency needs in front of the local government decision channel. Identify your needs based on the parameters of what opioid settlement funding can be used for and meet with your local government leaders now. They need to know how this funding will impact your department, address response needs and mitigate the impact this epidemic has had.
It's also important to ensure opioid settlement funding is used ethically and transparently, supporting the intent behind the settlements. Some uses of the funding have already come under scrutiny. Open, clear communication with constituents is key to helping build support for your agency’s use of these funds. Getting “creative” will only erode public trust and backfire in the long run.
Opioid settlement funding will continue for 11 to 18 years, and it is expected that more settlements will be forthcoming. Many of the same advocacy strategies used to tap American Rescue Plan funds apply to opioid settlement funding as well. Start those conversations with your local leaders today!
State Participation Status in Opioid Settlement Funding: Shows the states participating in each settlement. Many states have also provided additional documentation about how they intend to use the funding.
States’ Opioid Settlement Spending Plans: Provides state-level guides that can help you understand how funds are being distributed in your state and advocate for your share.
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