Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

State To Receive $800M In Massive Opioid Epidemic Settlement

03/08/22 11:59 AM By Team MIRS

Published 03/07/2022 - Attribute to MIRS.news

Michigan will acquire $800 million in a historic settlement to try to heal the damage caused by the opioid epidemic, but the state's Attorney General hopes it doesn't lie dormant in the Legislature. 

"Since I am in Lansing, I just want to say this directly to any of our legislators that may be watching this broadcast and ask a favor – please don't treat this money as a political football," said Attorney General Dana NESSEL. "This isn't a Democratic issue. It's not a Republican issue." 

The money will be coming to Michigan as part of a $26 billion settlement with American drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health. Johnson & Johnson – the pharmaceutical drugmaker – also agreed to contribute $5 billion to the settlement's grand total, agreeing to not lobby for opioid-related activities and to formally discontinue all opioid sales. 

Numerous attorneys general participated in the three years of negotiations, including those from Florida, New York, Ohio, Texas, California, Colorado and others. Overall, the nationwide agreement marked the second largest multi-state agreement in the history of the United States. 

More than 4,000 claims from state and local governments were a part of the discussions. 

At a press conference in the Lansing Fire Department's downtown fire station, Ingham County Health Officer Linda VAIL explained how her department witnessed opioid overdose rates stabilize after a tenfold increase in deaths between 2006 and 2015. However, she illustrated tragic disappointment when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. 

"The pandemic arrived in 2020 and our progress was significantly affected. As was the case with a number of issues during the pandemic, systemic barriers and access issues were exacerbated for many of our most vulnerable," Vail said. "Between 2019 and 2020, fatal overdoses in Ingham County increased 33%." 

For Ingham County alone, deaths jumped from 78 in 2019 to more than 104 in 2020. Vail said when the 2021 data is finalized, her department is anticipating the number to be at 125. 

"Many individuals avoided emergency rooms during the pandemic, which also reduced the likelihood that those experiencing non-fatal overdoses will access harm reduction or treatment for recovery services and other resources," Vail said. "Clearly, this is a critical time for the opioid settlement fund to make their way to communities for direct services, including prevention, harm reduction and treatment. Too many people have lost their lives." 

Funds will start to be deployed in April of this year. 

Nessel explained the money can be spent on opioid-use disorder treatment and recovery support, addressing the needs of residents involved in the criminal justice system and first responder support. 

The dollars can also be spent on services for pregnant women, infants and other family members impacted by the opioid epidemic. 

"The list goes on and on, but there must be a connection to opioid use, opioid abuse and opioid prevention," Nessel said. "I have personally met with health care providers, local organizations and community leaders regarding the impact of opioids and on the communities they serve – and I will continue those meetings over the next several months." 

Nessel shared she received a 90-day prescription of hydrocodone – an opioid – after a C-section when one of her twin boys was positioned underneath the left side of her ribcage and "split a whole bunch of ribs while I was pregnant." 

She was told to utilize the drug every four hours. 

"It was just a few weeks later that one day, I got more than four hours of sleep and realized I was sick as a dog and I couldn't understand how I got so sick when I never even left the house," Nessel said. "It became really clear to me that's how quickly a person can become addicted and it was a painful process." 

While her condition was short-term, she underscored people who've been subjected to opioid use to manage long-term pain are forced into a "living hell" when struggling to stop – "and we have to help people…we have to help people get back to a place of normalcy." 

Already, Michigan's largest municipalities are set to obtain "tens of millions of dollars," however, Nessel said they could earn more after the state starts appropriated the rest of the funds.