County to consider signing onto opioid settlement

Published 8:56 am Thursday, July 29, 2021

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The Beaufort County Commissioners on Monday will consider signing on to a $26 billion national opioid settlement that could provide money to help the county’s opioid abatement efforts.

The national settlement involves pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, as well as Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured and marketed opioids.

North Carolina has signed the agreement. If all local governments sign on, the state stands to receive approximately $750 million from the settlement. Those funds would be distributed in accordance with the Memorandum of Agreement between the state and local governments. As of July 21 more than 53 local governments had already agreed to the memorandum.

Per the memorandum, 15% of the settlement funds will go to the state, and the General Assembly will be able to appropriate that money to address the opioid crisis; 80% of the settlement money will go to local governments, including all 100 counties, allocated using a “formula developed by attorneys representing local governments in national litigation;” and 5% will go into an incentive fund for any county — and any municipality in a county already receiving settlement funds — in which the county itself and every one of its municipalities with at least 30,000 residents signs the memorandum.

The memorandum requires settlement fund recipients to use that money to address the opioid epidemic.  There are two options for recipients to chose from.

“Under Option A, a local government may fund one or more strategies from a shorter list of evidence-based, high-impact strategies to address the epidemic,” the memorandum reads. “Under Option B, a local government may fund one or more strategies from a longer list of strategies after engaging in a collaborative strategic planning process involving a diverse array of stakeholders at the local level.”

The settlement agreement was reached on July 22; from that point, states had 30 days to sign on to the deal and local governments in the participating states have up to 150 days to join.

“The opioid epidemic has torn families apart and killed thousands of North Carolinians,” N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement announcing the agreement. “Families across our state have shared with me their heart-wrenching stories about their loved ones who are struggling with the horrible disease of addiction or who overdosed and died. It has been my genuine honor on their behalf to lead these negotiations to hold accountable the companies that helped to create and fuel this crisis.

“While no amount of money will ever be enough, this settlement will force these drug companies to pay a historic amount of money to bring much-needed treatment and recovery services to North Carolina communities and to change their business practices so that something like this never happens again.”

Per that release, the national settlement resolves claims of both states and local governments across the country.

“The county is involved in it. The county was one of the petitioners, one of the plaintiffs,” Beaufort County Attorney David Francisco told the Daily News. “We’re happy with what the settlement was. We’ve just got to figure out some of the other angles on it to make sure we’re all in agreement with that part of it.”

The release from Stein’s office says the three distributors collectively will pay up to $18 billion over 18 years as part of the settlement. Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years.