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City approves plan to disburse opioid settlement funds during week of International Drug Overdose Awareness Day

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City approves plan to disburse opioid settlement funds during week of International Drug Overdose Awareness Day Robert Preston Jr./DouglasNow.com

At Monday night’s city commission meeting, commissioners approved a tentative plan to disburse funds from the National Opioid Settlement Agreement. 



In 2021, the National Opioid Settlement Agreement resolved all opioid litigation brought against the three largest pharmaceutical companies in the country — McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen — as well as manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson. Likewise, last year, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, along with two other manufacturers — Allergen and Teva — were brought into the suit.



As you might imagine, the settlement is complicated and involves a number of different parts. However, the short of it is that the litigation is a multi-billion dollar suit that pays out funds to state and local governments over 18 years. At Monday’s meeting, City Manager Charlie Davis announced the Douglas will receive $270,000 in as a part of the suit. That money will be paid out over the previously mentioned 18-year period. The commission agreed to authorize city personnel to speak with Superior Court Judge Dwayne Gillis, who oversees the local drug court, and Unison Behavioral Health, to develop a plan to utilize those funds. There are specific guidelines that must be followed regarding how the money can be spent. In the end, the commission agreed to contract with the drug court and Unison to allocate the money in such a way that satisfies the settlement’s stipulations.



Whether it was intentional or not, the discussion at the city commission meeting coincided with International Drug Overdose Awareness Day, which was observed on Thursday, August 31. Sponsored by Communities Against Substance Abuse (CASA), the goal is to end drug overdoses in the United States. Additionally, CASA would like to see the stigma often associated with drug overdoses disappear. CASA’s web site states “Our children are being systematically murdered for enormous profits, yet there is still unrelenting judgment, denial, and stigma when a parent loses a child to drugs.”



Statistics on the site show that 96,700 people die from overdoses each year (about 265 per day). Of those, 72 percent are caused by opioids, according to CASA’s site. And that number doesn’t look like it will drop any time soon. In fact, it will likely increase as pushers create newer and more dangerous opioids and their derivatives.



Whether or not the city commission knew this week hosted International Drug Overdose Awareness Day during the same week commissioners discussed the opioid settlement remains a mystery. It doesn’t really matter — it was perfect timing either way. 



Hopefully, the work CASA is doing along with the programs that the opioid settlement will fund, both locally and throughout the nation, will significantly reduce the number of children and young adults lost to overdoses every year.

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