ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello held a press conference Monday afternoon to announce legislation that will “ensure the county’s fair share of settlement funds from opioid manufacturers and distributors will be targeted at addiction services.”
The county executive expressed his gratitude to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who helped lead the legal effort to secure the settlement.
“Her work will give us vital dollars to treat addition,” Bello said.
Just two wees ago, Monroe County reported 238 fatal overdose deaths from heroin and fentanyl locally in 2020, a 31% increase since 2019.
“The damage caused by opioids is measured by two many deaths, and too much pain,” Bello said.
The distribution companies — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — said that 42 states had agreed to join. Johnson & Johnson did not immediately say how many states agreed to its part of the settlement.
Locally, Monroe County will be set to receive $2.3 million and $5.5 million from Johnson & Johnson, paid out over a ten years. An additional $13.9 million from AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson will be paid out to the county over an 18-year period.
“This money will help fund the innovative and effective public health methods that this crisis requires,” Bello said.
The county executive said local settlement money must be used for treatment and recovery efforts, and proposed laws to make that happen.
“We must guarantee that this money not be spent in another way,” Bello said. “We are working to create a trust fund, so that not a single penny from the settlement is used for anything other than preventing addition, deaths, and increasing our services.”
Together, the settlements are likely to represent the biggest piece of a string of settlements between companies in the drug industry and state and local governments over the addiction and overdose epidemic in the U.S. Prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin and illicit ones such as heroin and illegally made fentanyl have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000.
“We owe the people and families who are battling addiction,” Bello said. “This money can only be used for prevention and treatment of addiction. We will be working with our impact team and community partners to build out the plan and fund these various programs.”
The county executive said the impact team is a valuable local resource, and team members meet with someone who overdoses after the fact to stay with them and support them as they walk down the path of recovery.
Bello said the ongoing pandemic has only magnified the opioid issue in our community.
“Last year there was a clear connection between the COVID pandemic and opioid fatalities,” Bello said. “You have one epidemic fueling another one with the isolation impacting people from being able to reach out for support.”
Under the $26 billion settlement, which was initially announced in June, states were given a month to decide whether to join. Then it would be up to the companies to decide whether it was enough to keep going.
The next step is trying to get local governments to sign on to the deal and agree not to continue their lawsuits. This phase is to last until Jan. 2. After that, the companies will again decide whether enough have joined to implement the deal.
In all the cases, governments have agreed to put most of their shares toward drug treatment and education programs and other measures to fight the epidemic.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.