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Delaware County Gathering Feedback on Uses for Opioid Settlement Funding

From a press release 

Delaware County held a public Town Hall on June 15 at Delaware County Community College to discuss strategies to best utilize funding that the County will receive in a multi-state opioid settlement.

The county will receive funds as part of a $26 billion multi-state opioid settlement with Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. Delaware County will receive $63 million in 18 annual payments. The funding will be used to tackle the devastating opioid epidemic affecting Delaware County residents, their loved ones, and the community.

The Town Hall, hosted by Delaware County Council, was held to engage community members around the opioid settlement funds that the county will receive and gather information about how to best utilize the funds.

It’s critical that Delaware County move quickly to put the new funding into use, because every day is another day that someone struggles with addiction and its devastating impact on their lives, the lives of their loved ones, and the community.

Future Opioid Settlement Town Halls are also being scheduled to be held at locations across the county.

Residents are also invited to provide feedback via an online survey.

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Delco Will Receive $3.5M Per Year For 18 Years to Abate the Opioid Epidemic

From a press release

Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D. and District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer joined Attorney General Josh Shapiro on September 13 in Media to announce a $62.5 million opioid settlement with pharmaceutical distributors.

The county will receive annual payments for 18 years in an average amount of $3.5 million. The funds are the result of the combined legal actions taken by the county, state, and the district attorney. The first two payments, totaling $7.36M, will be received in two portions, the first of which was received on August 31, 2022. The funding will be used to tackle the devastating opioid epidemic affecting Delaware County residents, their loved ones, and the community.

“There is no amount of money that could ever account for the lives that opioids have taken and ruined, but we can use these settlement funds to educate residents with a focus on prevention and recovery and work to tackle the scourge of opioid abuse that has caused devastation in our community,” said Taylor.

The settlement funds will support programs directly related to the impacts of opioid overuse and addiction. To ensure that the funds are used to combat the opioid crisis to the best of their ability,  Delaware County has formed an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary task force to provide recommendations to County Council for short-term and immediate uses, as well as long-term programming that can be supported by the new funding.

The taskfForce will coordinate with medical professionals on the county’s Board of Health and experts in the field of recovery to assess community needs and will work closely with the county’s diversity, equity, and inclusion officer to address racial disparities surrounding opioid use. The task force will ensure that the funding is used to create and expand programs that will save lives and impact families across the county.

The county will also seek public input, review what neighboring counties are doing, and identify gaps in its approaches. Data collection and review will include adult death reviews, overlap with mental health, and non-fatal overdose reviews.

“My office looks forward to working with county officials, treatment providers, and community stakeholders as we devise the best strategy for getting this funding to the places that will do the most good for the most people,” said Stollsteimer. “Nothing can undo the harm the opioid industry has inflicted on families across our county. Countless lives have been lost, and families irreparably broken as a consequence of this relentless epidemic. The funding announced today will provide critical support  for overdose prevention and for services for those suffering from opioid addiction.”

The task force had its first meeting a week after the first portion of the settlement was received and will reassemble later in September before presenting its recommendations to County Council in October.

The funds come from the $26 billion global settlement with Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, three major pharmaceutical distributors of opioids. Delaware County was the first county in the state to sue for damages against 11 major drug suppliers of opioids and their consulting physicians.

“Today marks the day when the companies who fueled this crisis and peddled these narcotics for profit, pay up to the communities they targeted with resources to change the tide in battling this epidemic,” said Shapiro.” It is going to take the help of local leaders, who know best what this community needs, to invest these resources to yield the greatest impact and save lives. Our office will hold any company that targets our communities with poisons and puts profits above people accountable for the harm caused.”

The funding from the settlement must be used to combat the opioid crisis and is restricted to certain remediation purposes such as Naloxone training and distribution for first responders, schools, community support groups and families, medication-assisted treatment, expansion of warm hand-off programs and recovery services, prevention programs and treatment for incarcerated populations.

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DelVal Counties–Except Philadelphia–Sign on to Opioid Settlement

Pennsylvania counties piled on to the national opioid settlement for their cut of more than $1 billion to use to address the opioid epidemic.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced last month that 50 counties—roughly 75 percent of Pennsylvania’s counties—had agreed to join the opioid settlement. Payments would be used for treatment for those impacted by opioid addiction.

The lawsuit against Cardinal, McKesson, Amerisource Bergen, and Johnson & Johnson was officially settled in July of last year and settled globally to resolve 4,000 individual lawsuits.

Of the $1 billion owed to Pennsylvania, $232 million is expected to be delivered in 2022. Counties were allowed to join the settlement up to Jan. 2.

Aside from financial help, the court set a series of regulations for those companies as a result of the lawsuit that restrict how opioids are distributed as well as completely banning Johnson & Johnson from selling opioids for the next 10 years.

Between 2017 and 2020, some 16, 897 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses, with countless more having their lives impacted due to addiction.

Funding for each county was determined by how badly it had been affected by opioid addiction. While Philadelphia has rejected the settlement as being too little, other Delaware Valley counties are on board. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner rejected the $5 million to $8 million per year over 18 years ($90-$144 million in total).

Chester County announced in a press release on Dec. 16 it will receive $15.5 million from the settlement. It currently plans on using the funds for increasing Chester’s support of prevention efforts.

“Two major initiatives to emerge from the task force’s efforts are the County’s COPE program,” Said Chester County spokesperson Rebecca Brian.” A 24/7 warm handoff program that helps individuals who have suffered an overdose transition from the emergency room to treatment; and the Chester County Color 5K, an annual event which has helped to raise awareness of the crisis and more than $185,000 over six years to help fund the COPE program. The event also serves to reduce the stigma of being associated with substance use disorder.”

The first installment of the funds is expected to Chester County sometime later in 2022.

Montgomery County spokeswoman Kelly Cofrancisco said the county should receive $35,108,680 from the settlement on the stipulation that every other eligible county applies for funding. Montgomery County expects not every county to apply for the funding, and instead expects to receive less money. It will not know the actual amount until later this year.

County officials have not yet determined what they will use the money for, she said.

Bucks County also said it was too early to predict how much money it would be receiving and how it would eventually use it.

And Delaware County “is slated to receive $48.5 million (plus an additional share of $30 million),” according to a spokeswoman for Shapiro. She was unable to say how much Delaware County would receive from the additional $30 million statewide sum.

Delaware County spokeswoman Adrienne  Marofsky said, “There are still some undetermined factors which will impact the number, but the payment is estimated at $45-50 million, over 18 years. Once we are given a final amount and details of the timeline, we will work to develop a plan on how to best utilize the money for opioid prevention and treatment for residents.”

Exhibit E of the settlement papers outlines acceptable uses of the opioid case remediation. The state breaks down the uses by priority with two sections; Schedule A or “Core Strategies” and Schedule B or “Approved Uses.”

Core strategies are those which the state would like counties to prioritize and includes tactics like expanding Naloxone training and distribution, medication-assisted treatments, and treatments for pregnant women and infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Approved use includes a much broader load of acceptable uses, which are broken down into treatment, prevention, and “other strategies.”

“Other strategies” include overall education of community members and first responders, community-wide support for leadership, planning, and coordination, and research into several facets of society that either contribute to or are affected by the opioid epidemic.

“When the county filed its lawsuit in May 2018, we sought two things: to keep these and other similar companies from engaging in the acts and practices that led to the opioid crisis, and to be able to provide additional resources to the communities and families in our county who have been most impacted by their actions,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “The settlement agreement reached by Attorney General Shapiro and several other states provides for significant industry changes and up to $1 billion that Pennsylvania is set to receive. We want our residents to benefit from that agreement and have resources available to them now and intend to sign on.”

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ALEXANDER: PA Leaders Must Come Together to Access Opioid Treatment Funds and Save Lives

President Joe Biden’s host of initiatives to address drug addiction and overdose is at risk of falling on deaf ears if he does not address the rapid rise in fatalities related to opioid abuse.

With the United States focused on battling COVID-19, new information revealed that over one million drug overdose deaths have occurred since the government began collecting this data in the late 1990s. That same data shows trends continuing in the wrong direction, with overdose deaths for the 12-month period ending in April 2021 over 100,000 for the first time ever. Ending this tragic tide will take greater commitment that the United States has yet to put forth.

Unfortunately, government mandates tend to cast wide nets. In this case, it includes consistent talk that prescription opioids should be lumped into the same category as illegal fentanyl. In 2019, prescription opioids were dispensed at the lowest rate in 14 years. Overdose deaths, however, continued to climb.

According to the CDC, “most of the increases in fentanyl deaths from 2013-2016 did not involve prescription fentanyl but were related to illicitly-made fentanyl that is being mixed with or sold as heroin—with or without the users’ knowledge and increasing as counterfeit pills.” Solely blaming prescription opioids for these woes distorts reality.

Eradicating opioid abuse and these fatalities requires greater expansion of quality treatment programs. Leading medical centers like Johns Hopkins have repeatedly told policymakers that treatment relieves withdrawal and addresses cravings. Even with many of the companies that manufacture legal opioids independently funding treatment and education programs, opioid overdoses are still rising as Mexican drug cartels and Chinese drug smugglers flood the United States with illicit fentanyl. Additional interdiction efforts will be needed to end these trafficking networks.

A glimmer of hope emerged in July 2021 with the announcement of a landmark $26 billion settlement that a bipartisan group of state attorneys general negotiated with three opioid distributors and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. With that deal, states and communities that sign on have the potential to receive billions of dollars to fund recovery, treatment, and prevention programs. As of January 2022, 44 states, D.C. and five territories have fully entered into the agreement providing the “critical mass” needed to move forward with finalizing the settlement.

Although the Keystone State signed onto the deal, it still has some challenges to overcome. In order to access the full allotment of funds available for Pennsylvania, local governments must also agree to participate. Unfortunately, only 75 percent of counties have signed on thus far. A notable holdout is City of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who to date has refused to join the settlement negotiated by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a fellow Democrat. In doing so the Philadelphia D.A. is jeopardizing the $1 billion in hard-fought funds the citizens of the commonwealth are entitled to.

D.A. Krasner, who has been litigating opioid companies since 2018, believes the $5 million to $8 million per year over 18 years ($90-$144 million in total) Philadelphia is projected to receive is inadequate. A holdout like that might prove unwise, considering how unlikely it would be for Philadelphia to negotiate a more robust deal than what was reached by the combined efforts of the majority of state attorneys general.

Further, opting-out would delay access to funds for treatment programs and might mean Philadelphia will ultimately get nothing, should their independent efforts prove unsuccessful. With the majority of Pennsylvania’s drug overdoses occurring in Philadelphia and with that number rising rapidly, especially among African Americans, the city of brotherly love can ill afford to reject such resources.

The opioid epidemic has cost too many American lives. Instead of spending millions of dollars and countless time on lawsuits, the nation needs to expand successful treatment, prevention, and education programs to reduce deaths and help Americans become productive. Now, more than ever, the nation must provide greater attention to saving lives. Opting into this latest lawsuit settlement would be a prudent start.

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