As the countdown to the new year begins, the deadline for communities to join national opioid settlements with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson is quickly approaching.
States, counties, cities, towns, and other local communities have until Jan. 26, 2022 to sign on to join the settlement agreements reached with the four major drug and healthcare companies earlier this year (the deadline was recently extended from Jan. 2, 2022).
Already, thousands of communities have submitted forms to sign on to the settlement, and in the month since Thanksgiving, there has been a 300% increase in national participation.
In July 2021, as part of the national opioid multidistrict litigation (MDL) hearing, the four defendants — facing more than 3,000 lawsuits from state and local governments for their roles in the opioid crisis — agreed to settle for a total of $26 billion.
Opioid Recovery Funds Are Needed Across the U.S.
In accordance with the terms of the $26 billion settlement, local communities will use the funds to combat the devastating effects of the opioid crisis by establishing critical intervention programs, as well as much-needed treatment, education and recovery services.
The opioid crisis has been one of the country’s gravest modern tragedies, and funds are sorely needed for ailing communities all across the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the crisis is responsible for the deaths of at least 840,000 Americans across the span of the past two decades, and has shown no signs of slowing down.
In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis has worsened — more than 100,000 Americans died from overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021, marking the highest rate of overdose deaths in U.S. history.
Participation in the $26B Settlement Is Crucial
Communities throughout the country have been signing on to the settlements by the thousands. In several states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and Virginia, nearly all litigating subdivisions have already signed up to receive funds. More than 20 states have already reached allocation agreements with their cities and counties, and many more are finalizing agreements.
After the January deadline passes, the four defendants will have 30 days to assess settlement participation levels and determine whether there is enough participation to finalize the terms of the agreement. If the defendants determine there is not enough participation by state and local governments, they can walk away from the agreement or reduce the overall settlement amount.
“Communities may receive funds as early as April 2022 depending on when a settling state meets certain requirements, so time is of the essence. Participation levels will dictate whether the settlements move forward and affect how much money states will receive. If higher participation rates are not reached, states will not receive the full scope of the settlements or risk losing these funds entirely.”
In addition, signing onto the agreement means states and local governments would have to agree to drop any remaining lawsuits against the defendants and agree not to file any additional opioid lawsuits against the companies in the future.
While at least 45 states have agreed to sign on to the settlement (or signaled their intent to join), crucial holdouts remain, making participation in the agreement all the more important.
In order to be eligible to receive the maximum amount of funds for their community’s opioid epidemic recovery efforts, communities must sign onto the agreement by Jan. 26, 2022.
Litigating and non-litigating subdivisions can register to receive settlement forms and find more information on the terms at the national opioid settlement website: nationalopioidsettlement.com or by contacting their state Attorney General.