Attorney General Shapiro Opens Discussion Surrounding Opioid Settlement Funding For Pennsylvanian Residents

According to medlineplus.gov, approximately 2 million Americans are affected by an affliction known as Opioid Use Disorder. Deaths related to opioids in America are at an all-time high, with the number skyrocketing 28% from prior years (a total of over 100,000 deaths according to the CDC) annually as of November 17, 2021. While the pestilence has affected all in some way, whether it be a family member, friend, or neighbor, there is hope with this new agreement, valued at $26 billion, of which Pennsylvania is allotted $1.07 billion. The top three major players in the pharmaceutical companies (Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson) have taken accountability for their contribution to the now known endemic American crisis. Although the money they contribute to better the American people’s lives is a blessing, the scars never entirely heal right when it comes to the damage done by prescription Opioids. Prescription opioids helped lay the groundwork for future prescription/non-prescription opioid addicts for generations to come.

As of April 13, 2022, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jen Smith was joined by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Butler County Commissioner/Counter Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Board Chairman Kevin Boozel, and Berk County Council on Chemical Abuse to converse about the incoming settlement funding incoming to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“We must have continued urgency to address this crisis at the community level, as that is where change begins,” said DDAP Secretary Smith. “This funding will provide opportunities to reach underserved individuals struggling with substance use disorder and provide the necessary tools to find and complete treatment, and go on to live a healthy, fulfilling life in recovery.”

“These settlement funds will provide more treatment and more capacity to county and local organizations, help provide important ancillary services — like transportation for people trying to access treatment, and save lives,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “I’m thankful for all of our partners in this process. This would not have happened without their cooperation and expertise. I’m looking forward to the next steps and getting funds out to the communities that need them.”

Later this week, the Office of Attorney General is filing consent decrees to the Common Wealth Court. To allow this settlement (over the damage done by big pharma) to come to a close and become effectual for the addicts within the Commonwealth. Once approved, the Pennsylvania Opioid Misuse and Addiction Abatement Trust will administer the disbursement of payments. Local governments are the first to receive payments as early as summer 2022, with the second influx of payments anticipated to be in early fall.

January 2022 has revealed that all 67 counties (up to and including more than 240 local governments with a population of 10,000 or more) have signed on to the national settlement. The money will be allocated on both a state and local level sequestered by the General Assembly. The funds will be distributed as such:

70% to counties based on analytics  regarding overdose deaths, opioid-related hospitalizations, naloxone administrations, and opioid shipments 15% to counties and subdivisions litigated by district attorneys and special districts; and 15% to Pennsylvania as a whole which was apportioned by the legislature

The settlement ushers in an influx of socio-economic relief towards rehabilitation programs and the addicts who go there, allowing more access to treatment that is becoming increasingly harder to get for those who are impoverished/without insurance. Until this was implemented, many were denied access to rehab prior to this settlement due to lack of funding/failure to meet criteria (as addiction is often a sliding scale). Naloxone and MAT Medication-assisted treatment) are being expanded upon; as well as programs for pregnant or postpartum women and babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, warm hand-off programs, treatment for incarcerated population, prevention and education, harm reduction strategies such as syringe service programs, data collection, and research, enhancing connections to care, drug courts and diversion programs, supporting first responders, and training.

“We have come together as a team to commit the funds that were garnered from the settlement. It was very important to the counties and Attorney General Shapiro, a former county commissioner, to ensure that we maximize the effectiveness of these funds at the county level,” said Butler County Commissioner Boozel. “Counties are ultimately responsible for the delivery of the quality of drug and alcohol services to our local communities. The attorney general and his team listened to the needs of the communities, afforded us the opportunity to make the best use of those funds on a local level, and will continue to fight against this deplorable disease.”

“The additional resources available through the opioid settlement are vital for us to more effectively implement our local strategy to combat the ongoing overdose crisis in our community,” said Berks County Council on Chemical Abuse Executive Director Stanley Papademetriou.

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