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Local authorities face challenges in distributing their portion of billions from settlements related to opioids

Suzanne Harrison hold the photo of her brother (Via Sherry Taylor/Shutterstock)

Funds from settlements aimed at tackling the long-standing opioid addiction and overdose crisis are being distributed to towns and cities across the U.S. However, there are concerns among advocates that portions of these funds might not be used effectively to address the crisis.

As state and local governments determine how to allocate the money, advocates worry that local authorities may struggle to identify community needs accurately and direct funding to projects that employ proven methods to prevent deaths.

Opioids have been linked to approximately 800,000 deaths in the U.S. since 1999, including over 80,000 annually in recent years, primarily due to illicitly produced fentanyl.

Over the past decade, drug manufacturers, wholesalers, and pharmacies have settled over 100 lawsuits related to opioids with state, local, and Native American tribal governments.

Suzanne Harrison (Via Sherry Taylor/Shutterstock)

These settlements, some still pending finalization, could total more than $50 billion over nearly 20 years and include requirements for improved prescription monitoring and public disclosure of company documents.

In the 1990s, states fought the tobacco industry and used only a small portion of the settlement funds on tobacco-related initiatives.

“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes made with tobacco by trusting small governments with opioids and doing even worse,” said Paul Farrell, Jr., a lead lawyer representing local governments in the opioid lawsuits.

With settlement funds set to be distributed over the next 14 years or more, there is time for communities to use them effectively with available support.

Experts emphasize the importance of using the funds to help opioid users access treatment, reduce the likelihood of drug overdoses, and create environments that discourage initial drug use.

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