LUMBERTON – Robeson County and its municipalities could receive millions of dollars from the $ 26 billion national opioid settlement reached Wednesday that aims to reduce opioid dependence and hold manufacturers and distributors accountable.
The deal was made with Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen – the country’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors – and Johnson & Johnson. Companies will pay up to $ 21 billion over 18 years, according to North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s office.
“Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $ 5 billion over nine years, with up to $ 3.7 billion paid in the first three years,” according to Stein’s office.
“North Carolina’s share will be divided between state and local governments in accordance with a memorandum of understanding, to which the state and more than 53 local governments have already agreed. North Carolina is expected to receive around $ 750 million with all local governments on board, ”a statement from Stein’s office said in part.
Fifteen percent of the funds will go to the state and will be earmarked by the General Assembly to fight the epidemic, and 80% will go to 100 counties and 17 municipalities, according to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.
Robeson County was to receive about $ 9 million to disperse over an 18-year period, according to Robeson County Prosecutor Rob Davis. The county could get more from the bankruptcy proceedings involving Purdue Pharma, which manufactures opioids.
“I don’t know when it (the money) will be issued,” Davis said.
For the settlement to be approved and funding to be allocated, states must sign the MOA, with a number of signatory counties to be eligible to participate, Davis said.
States have 30 days after entering into the agreement to sign the agreement and local governments in those states have up to 150 days, according to the state attorney general’s office. North Carolina has already signed the MOA, which means any local government in the state can sign the MOA to participate in distributing the money.
Robeson County has signed the agreement, and Davis encourages all municipalities and local governments to sign the MOA.
The county can allocate funds to municipalities that sign the MOA. Scattering factors with local governments include “the number of pills distributed, the number of opioid overdose deaths and the number of people with opioid use disorders,” according to the NCACC.
Davis said the settlement money will be spent on drug prevention and treatment programs. Funding will be closely monitored by a committee of attorneys, county managers and commissioners across the state.
Historically, the more than $ 200 billion tobacco settlement reached in the 1990s has not been entirely spent on tobacco prevention measures, reports The Associated Press. Instead, “a lot of the money helped balance state budgets, lay fiber optic cables and repair roads.”
The opioid deal maintains strict oversight of spending, including audits and guidelines to be followed to ensure funding is spent appropriately.
“I think that’s exactly why they did it this way,” Davis said.
Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins welcomes help to save lives and help county residents struggling with drug addiction.
“I am delighted to know that our county is included in this settlement as we have experienced a huge increase in overdoses and overdose-related deaths over the past year,” Wilkins said in a statement.
“This funding will obviously help in many ways, but more importantly, addicts. Drug addicts are someone’s loved ones and we cannot just put them aside. We need to unite and help them and not let them down or belittle them as they fight, ”Wilkins’ statement read in part.
There were 25 overdose deaths in Robeson County from Jan. 1 to May 7, according to the RCSO. These deaths do not include overdose deaths in areas covered by other law enforcement agencies. In 2020, the county sheriff’s office recorded 51 overdose deaths.
Family Drug Treatment Court is a program that offers hope in Robeson County and may qualify for funding, Davis said.
“It’s a problem here,” Davis said.
But, the funding could be a “game changer” for Robeson County as it seeks to combat addiction in a variety of ways, the attorney said.
“We appreciate all of the hard work and leadership of Attorney General Stein, his staff at the Department of Justice, as well as the talented county leaders in this state who have worked so hard on this landmark settlement agreement,” said the Minister of Justice. NCACC Chairman Ronnie Smith, Chairman of the Martin County Council of Commissioners.
“Their collaboration and collective efforts to fight the opioid epidemic in North Carolina will save lives and have generational impacts. The agreement will give local governments an unprecedented opportunity to help heal our communities, and our association will strive to ensure the full participation of all counties in North Carolina, ”said Smith.
In 2020, there were 93,000 overdose deaths in the United States, an increase of almost 30% from the previous year, according to Stein’s office. From 2000 to 2019, more than 16,500 people died in the state from accidental overdoses.
“While no amount of money will ever be enough, this settlement will force these drug companies to pay a historic sum of money to bring much-needed treatment and recovery services to communities in North Carolina and to change their business practices to that something like that doesn’t happen again, ”said Stein.
“North Carolina has signed this agreement, and through a strong partnership with our cities and counties, more than 53 local governments have already joined us. I look forward to working with county and city leaders across the state to ensure North Carolina brings home the maximum amount of funds possible. We can’t delay – the lives of too many people depend on it, ”added Stein.
Besides the tobacco regulation, the cases are “the attorney general’s largest multi-state enforcement actions in history,” according to Stein’s office.
Contact Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or by email at [email protected]