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Colorado unveils framework for distribution of potential $400M in opioid settlement money

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Posted at 2:34 PM, Aug 26, 2021

DENVER – Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on Thursday unveiled a regional framework and breakdown of how the state will distribute what could potentially be hundreds of millions of dollars coming in from settlements with various opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Weiser announced in late July that the state stood to receive around $400 million from various settlements with the companies if enough local governments signed on to support the framework, which the attorney general’s office developed over the last 18 months along with local government officials and attorneys.

About $300 million of that comes as part of a $26 billion settlement reached by Colorado and other states with Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen. The other roughly $100 million will come from settlements with Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family and Mallinckrodt.

Under the memorandum of understanding reached between Weiser’s office and local governments, the state is split up into 19 regions, which will receive 60% of the settlement money. Each region will have boards comprised of local government officials that will work to decide on how to best utilize the money for their areas when it comes to helping stem the opioid crisis.

Twenty percent of the funds will go to local governments, though those local governments will be able to choose to allocate their respective money to the county or region in which they are included.

Ten percent will be put in an infrastructure fund to help build up programs and facilities in regions that lack them, and the final 10% will be managed by the attorney general’s office and be put toward prevention and education programs, among other things.

“The opioid framework is a shared commitment across Colorado for investing the opioid settlement funds our state will receive to rebuild lives and communities,” Weiser said in a statement. “…We have a once in a generation opportunity to build much-needed capacity to support drug treatment, recovery, and prevention and education programs. In so doing, we will honor those impacted by the epidemic and we’ll save the lives of countless others from overdose and addiction.”

Weiser was joined by several local officials at the announcement of the memorandum of understanding Thursday who said that taking a local approach to dispersing the money would be best for Colorado.

The attorney general’s office issued statements in support of the framework from officials in Denver, Montrose County, Prowers County, Logan County, Thornton, Fremont County, Jefferson County, Colorado Springs, Chaffee County, Douglas County, Adams County and El Paso County, among others.

“The partnership that has developed between counties and the attorney general’s office is invaluable,” said John Swartout, the executive director of Colorado Counties, Inc. “I am very pleased with the work that has been done the past 18 months to help reach this MOU that will benefit all counties and the work counties do to combat the impacts of opioid addiction.”

The attorney general’s office said if “a critical mass” of local governments support the framework by Jan. 2, 2022, the state would receive the maximum payments from the settlements. Reuters reported earlier this week there are six states that did not sign onto the proposed settlement with the four companies reached in July.

According to Colorado data, more than 7,600 Coloradans have died from accidental opioid overdoses over the past 20 years, and around 1,500 died from an opioid overdose last year.