West Baton Rouge and other parishes across Louisiana are expected to receive funds for treatment and education against opioid addiction as part of a national settlement of a $325 million national lawsuit.
State Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a press conference last week that he had brokered an agreement in principle with associations that represent sheriffs, parish governments and municipalities to determine how to divide and spend the settlement funds.
The suit involved three of the nation’s drug distribution companies – Amerisource Bergan and Cardinal Health – along with drug maker Johnson & Johnson.
A total of 42 states were involved in the settlement which will allocate $325 million to Louisiana part of the $26 billion settlement.
“Whether you’re in the suit or not, all parishes will be asked to participate, and it will come through governmental authority as well as the sheriff’s department,” said Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi, who also serves as president of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association. “Attorney General Landry is taking all the money and putting it back to where we can fight the problems opioids have caused.”
In lieu of fines for companies, attorneys asked the companies to provide chemicals for Narcan, and that has saved a lot of lives across the state, which has saved many lives across the state.”
The treatment will not only center on opioid use, but the aftereffects of becoming addicted to them.
“Some doctors prescribed it, saying it was not addictive when in reality it was very addictive,” Stassi said. “This settlement has come at a very opportune time.”
The settlement will provide help not only to metropolitan areas, but also many rural areas.
“What Attorney General Landry has done is to break it down to governmental agencies and sheriff’s office to reach out to every part of the state that will potentially have access to these funds,” Stassi said. “It’s not often it’s done that way.
“The opioid issues may actually be worse in the rural areas due to less law enforcement and having fewer things to do in those areas,” he said.
The settlement funds will enable government agencies to begin programs to help curb addition from opioids, which has been linked to 500,000 deaths since 2000.
Today is a great day in our fight to hold accountable those who have stoked the fire of the opioid crisis,” said Attorney General Landry, who helped lead state negotiations along with the attorneys general of North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
The agreement resolves investigations and litigation with Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson over the companies’ roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic. The agreement also requires significant industry changes that will help prevent this type of crisis from happening again
“It is our objective that every nickel of this settlement goes to treating those in need – mitigating the damage done to our citizens,” Landry said. “They deserve our state’s commitment to treating the addicted and protecting the public from this horrific plague; and I am proud to have delivered this great agreement to them.”
Leaders across the state’s 64 parishes must sign off on the deal. After administrative costs, 20 percent of the money will go to sheriff’s offices, while parishes, cities and towns will divvy up the remaining 80 percent.
The funds will be allotted through a nationally devised formula based on population and the number of opioid related prescriptions and opioid-related deaths among the area’s residents.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office will be able to audit each local government’s use of the funds follow the state guidelines.