$26 billion in new funding is available to mitigate the effects of the opioid epidemic, and now is the time for public safety leaders to advocate for their share
Opioid settlements have been reached nationally to resolve litigation brought by states and local communities. The agreement—announced Feb. 25, 2002—with the drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, along with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, will bring relief to states and communities affected by the opioid epidemic. A total of $26 billion is included in the settlement.
“The settlement is the first of its kind to administer resources directly to the state and local governments specifically for relief programs to help rebuild the devastation caused by the opioid epidemic,” the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee press release noted. The opioid settlement funding will have a direct impact on first responders, with states already moving to set up funds that expand naloxone training, fund pre-arrest diversion and post-overdose response, and provide wellness and support services for first responders who experience secondary trauma.
Following are key aspects of the settlement.
The distributor settlement includes $21 billion in funding and is open to all states except West Virginia. For a local political subdivision to receive funds, the state must agree to the settlement. The $5 billion settlement against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is open to all states. With the exception of Oklahoma, in order for a local political subdivision to receive funds, the state must agree to the settlement.
In both settlements, a limited number of “special districts,” such as school districts, fire districts and hospital districts, may be allowed to participate. Washington, D.C., and the five U.S. territories are treated as states in the agreements.
Multiple state Attorneys General filed joint lawsuits and 51 out of an eligible 56 states agreed to the settlement terms, although some are party to only one of the settlements. States that decline to participate may pursue further litigation at trial to obtain damages and abatement relief.
If the proposed settlements are fully adopted by states and subdivisions nationwide:
The Tribes, the distributors and Johnson & Johnson are also working toward resolution of Tribal opioids claims through mediations under the Multidistrict Litigation court.
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, ensuring funds will effectively reach communities in the coming months.
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, 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:
States are currently developing guidance for distributing the opioid settlement funding. While the funds will be used for programs across local government—including schools, health care providers, community outreach and recovery programs—state plans also outline many uses that will have a direct impact on first responders. 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. February 25 kickstarted a 60-day countdown to the date this settlement is considered effective. This means your local leaders are determining how to spend this money now.
Review the guidance from your state MOU and 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. 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!
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