The City of Newton will receive over $2 million after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and 13 other state attorneys general accepted a settlement offer from pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid crisis, according to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s April 7 newsletter.
“I promised the people of Massachusetts that the opioid crisis would be a top priority, that we would hold the bad actors accountable, and that the billion-dollar companies who got rich off the suffering in our communities would pay,” Healey said at an April 5 press conference. “This is a huge win for people in Massachusetts.”
The attorney general filed the case against Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen—which are the nation’s largest drug distributors—and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which manufactures opioids. The states alleged that the distributors did not have safeguards that would prevent illegitimate orders or opioids from reaching the streets, and J&J misled doctors and patients about the addictiveness of opioids, according to a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
Massachusetts will receive over $500 million from the settlement, according to the release. Each state’s share of the settlement was determined using a formula that takes into account the impact of the crisis on the state. Factors include the number of overdose deaths, number of residents with substance use disorder, number of opioids prescribed, and the state’s population, according to the release.
J&J has agreed to pay a total of $5 billion over nine years nationwide, with $3.7 billion of the sum paid within the first three years. The other three companies agreed to pay $21 billion over 18 years. The settlement also implements significant industry changes to prevent future opioid crises, though the release did not specify what those changes entail.
“Massachusetts led the nation in taking on the opioid industry, and we will lead the nation in delivering prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery,” Healey said. “Cities and towns across our state worked together to secure more than half a billion dollars, and we are committed to using every dollar to provide the services families need.”
Approximately $310 million will go into the statewide Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund to ensure capital is spent on harm reduction, treatment, and prevention. The commonwealth plans to distribute the other $210 million across the 338 municipalities in the commonwealth that signed on to receive funding.
“Whereas the default municipal share for settlement funds had been 15 percent, Massachusetts cities and towns will split a 40 percent share in total state allotment,” Fuller, who is also the president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said at the conference.
Of the $210 million distributed across cities and towns in Massachusetts, $2.12 million will go to Newton, according to Fuller’s newsletter. The city will use the money for programs and services that help those struggling with substance use disorder, and the money will also help establish new drug education and prevention initiatives for residents of all ages.
“This public health crisis has caused unspeakable trauma, suffering, and grief to many individuals and families across Newton,” Fuller wrote in her April 7 newsletter. “I will work with Newton Health and Human Services Commissioner Linda Walsh and Director of Social Services Meghan Kennedy on how best to invest these funds.”
The newsletter also outlined the city’s general drug prevention goals, including eliminating the onset and initiation of substance use within the community, reducing the stigma associated with substance use disorder, and supporting Newtonians experiencing the effects of substance abuse.
In conjunction with Fuller, Walsh, and Kennedy’s efforts, the city is prioritizing the development of the Newton Substance Use Prevention Coalition and working with the Newton Police Department to expand partnerships across the community, according to Fuller’s newsletter.
The first two settlement payments will reach cities this spring and summer, followed by yearly installments from 2023 to 2038, according to the newsletter. Fuller shared her confidence in the positive impacts of this victory.
“While funding does not erase the pain that substance use disorders create, these funds will directly help fortify and expand programs and services for Newton individuals and families,” Fuller wrote.
Featured Image by Steve Mooney / Heights Editor