LOCAL NEWS

WA opioid settlement to provide assistance for communities

Oct 6, 2022, 9:26 AM | Updated: 9:31 am
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AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

From creating a network of community-based treatment facilities, to reaching the full vision of the new 988 system, there is no shortage of problems that need to be addressed when it comes to fixing the opioid epidemic in Washington state.

Funding will be critical.

The more than half-billion-dollar settlement State Attorney General Bob Ferguson secured in a lawsuit against the three top opioid distributors will help.

Opioid distributors to pay $518 million to Washington state  

Ferguson announced in May the more than $500 million settlement with McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen in a lawsuit over their role in fueling the opioid crisis. The case claimed that the companies were negligent in their legal obligation to report large suspicious shipments of opioids pouring into the state to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Ferguson said they knew or should have known that pharmaceutical-grade opioids were being diverted to the black market in pursuit of profits.

McKesson still disputes allegations

One of the distributors, the McKesson Corporation, posted a statement in May when Ferguson highlighted the resolution.

It read in part: “While the companies strongly dispute the allegations made in the plaintiffs’ complaints and during trial, they believe that resolving all of the litigation filed by the State of Washington and its political subdivisions will further the companies’ goal of achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid… while delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic.”

Ferguson detailed the final agreement this week. He outlined how the settlement would be divided among the counties in the state and how those counties would be required to use the dollars.

“$215 million of the recovery will go directly to cities and counties to be used to heal communities in crisis. Local governments and all 39 counties will receive a portion of the settlement,” Ferguson said. He noted Washington is giving out one of the highest percentages of funds in the nation, directly to its cities and counties. Local governments negotiated how to divide the money.

An agreement on how to divide the cash

“They did agree on a formula based on how many opioids were shipped into their communities. How many people died as a result of opioids, and how many people are currently suffering from opioid use disorder,” Ferguson added.

The five counties getting the most significant share include King County – the county and its local jurisdictions will receive $56 million, and Pierce County will receive approximately $26 million. Snohomish County will get a little over $25 million, Spokane County will get a little over $90 million, and Clark County, nearly $15 million. Ferguson says an equal amount of $215 million will go to the entire state.

“Additionally, I’m directing the entire $46 million reimbursement of my office’s costs related to bringing and litigating this case; all of that money will go to the state… as well. So in total, $261 million goes to the state of Washington,” noted Ferguson.

Lawmakers have the final say

The State Legislature will have the final say on how the state dollars are used.

“But lawmakers under the terms of the agreement must use the funds to address the opioid epidemic,” he clarified.

The opioid distributors will pay the settlement dollars over the next 17 years.

The first payment comes to the state of Washington and to local jurisdictions on Dec. 1. The resolution front loads these payments to get significant dollars flowing quickly. The first payment is the largest, with a total of $55 million to the state and $80 million to local governments.

Spending decisions must be consistent with plan

“The Consent Decree aligns with our state’s opioid response plan, and spending decisions by state and local governments must be consistent with that plan. Local governments will need to report how they’re spending the monies. We have transparency throughout this process so the public can see how the money is being spent,” explained Ferguson.

Addressing addiction treatment, drug education, and community services, are just a few of the ways the money will be spent.

“The resources can be used to fund desperately needed prevention strategies, including improved and expanded treatment options to address the needs of pregnant women and their families, including those with babies with a neo-natal disorder, youth focus outreach and prevention efforts, support for first responders and other evidence-based programs and services that can save lives and preserve families,” Ferguson said.

First responders benefit

The support for first responders allows local jurisdictions to use money to hire fire and police personnel.

Follow Hanna Scott on Twitter or email her here

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WA opioid settlement to provide assistance for communities