A settlement with opioid manufacturers has awarded the state of Alaska $58 million, the Department of Law announced Tuesday, as part of one of the largest settlements in U.S. legal history.
According to Department of Law, 15% of the $58 million — roughly $8.7 million — will go to the nine political subdivisions in Alaska that participated in the lawsuit. The remaining funds will be used by the state to help Alaskans recover from opioid addiction, the release said.
“All of us know someone who suffered from opioid addiction, and this crisis has taken its toll on our communities,” said Attorney General Taylor in a statement. “This agreement sends a message to the companies that would put profits ahead of people.”
The governor’s Advisory Council on Opioid Remediation established last year will make recommendations on how to spend the money in a report due Dec. 1, the release said. That council is made up of nine voting members and four non-voting members from the Alaska State Legislature.
According to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office, the members of the board are Public Health Director Heidi Hedberg; Department of Revenue Commissioner Brian Fechter; Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Chair Anita Halterman; Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Treasurer Diana Zirul; Daniel Grimes of Soldotna; Kolboy Hickel of Anchorage; Richard Simmons of Bethel; Glenn Steckman of Nome and Bryce Ward of Fairbanks.
Non-voting members from the Legislature are Sens. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, and Reps. Liz Snyder, D-Anchorage, and Ken McCarty, R-Eagle River.
According to the agreement the nine entities within Alaska that participated in the suit and will receive their own payment are the Municipality of Anchorage; the City of Fairbanks; the Fairbanks North Star Borough; the City and Borough of Juneau; Kenai Peninsula Borough; Ketchikan Gateway Borough; Kodiak Island Borough; the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the City of Wasilla.
According to a draft copy of the settlement, Juneau will receive roughly 5.2% of the $8.7 million, approximately $450,000.
The settlement was part of a larger $26 billion settlement between pharmaceutical companies Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson, who together faced more than 4,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts, according to the Departmet of Law. The companies will begin releasing funds to a national administrator on April 2, according to the Department of Law, and money will start going to states in July.
Funds going to the state will ultimately have to be appropriated by the Legislature, according to DOL communications director Aaron Sadler, but will have to go toward opioid remediation per the settlement agreement.
In 2017 the governor’s office issued a disaster declaration for the opioid epidemic following a rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths.
Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson announced the settlement plan last year. However, as part of the settlement, the companies have admitted no wrongdoing. Opioid manufacturers —namely Purdue Pharma — have been accused of misleading the public about the dangers of opioid painkillers and aggressively pushing sales of the drugs.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.