Oxycodone tablets and pills on glass table with reflections.

Garfield County participating in opioid settlement

Oct. 22, 2021

The State of Colorado has negotiated a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed against major pharmaceutical companies on behalf of regions affected by the country’s opioid epidemic. Roughly $400 million in funds are to be distributed to the state, affected counties and local governments.

The settlement was negotiated by the Colorado Attorney General’s office, which worked with Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI), the Colorado Municipal League, and city and county attorneys. The legal claims are against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, and opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson for those companies’ roles in the opioid crisis. Similar action is being taken against Purdue Pharma, which is currently in bankruptcy hearings.

All told, the three distributors are paying a maximum of $21 billion over 18 years, while Johnson & Johnson is paying maximum of $5 billion over no more than nine years, according to the settlement.

“We are pleased to inform you that the Colorado Department of Law has come to an agreement with Colorado’s local governments for distributing opioid settlement and recovery funds to local counties and municipalities,” a letter to the county commissioners from Attorney General Phil Weiser read. “The state, as well as several Colorado local governments, have pursued litigation against various pharmaceutical companies for their role in causing the opioid epidemic in Colorado.”

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) in the settlement defines a “county area” as including all local governments within. The settlement funding is set to be distributed in qualifying percentages, including 10 percent to the state; 60 percent to regions; 20 percent to participating local governments; and 10 percent for abatement infrastructure projects.

Garfield County will be in Colorado’s Region 5 once the process is finalized, and Commissioner Tom Jankovsky is a voting member of that regional council.

Funds may only be allocated toward “approved purposes,” which include abatement strategies of “prevention, treatment, and harm reduction,” according to the state’s MOU. These approved purposes encompass training health care providers on opioid use disorder (OUD) treatments and reasonable prescribing; expanding telehealth and mobile treatment services; and increasing rescue breathing supplies and use of Naloxone for people who have overdosed on opioids.

“I’m totally in favor of this and the way it’s going forward,” added Commissioner Mike Samson. “I’m happy that Tom is representing us.”

Participation in the negotiated settlement was approved unanimously, 3-0.

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