PUEBLO — As the battle for settlement money from companies being held responsible for opioid crisis continues nationwide, so do the impacts of drug addiction in communities like Pueblo.
Pueblo's City Council voted unanimously on Monday night, agreeing to accept settlement money from the "Big 3" (AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson) and Johnson & Johnson.
The money will first be distributed to Pueblo County and the Southeast Region, which are each expected to receive $3,405,420 and $13,424,400 respectively. The city will receive a percentage from each pot of money.
"Monetary damages that the Attorney General is able to recover will not make everybody whole, but at least will disgorge some of those profits and the communities can use that to deal with some of these after effects that we've had," said Mayor Nick Gradisar.
For recovering opioid addicts like Ashley Parsons, no amount of dollar bills will fix the life-long impacts of substance abuse.
"People who have lost a loved one, there is no amount of money. People who are permanently damaged, there probably isn't an amount of money," said Parsons.
Parsons now runs her own group in an effort to curb addiction in Pueblo, the Harm Reduction Outreach Education & Support (HOPES). She funds the program with her own time and money.
"If I have a client, a potential client that reaches out to me that is ready to go, and let's say I have a bed ready for them at this location, but they're homeless, I'll put them up in a hotel for a night and pay for transportation," said Parsons.
The settlement money will be paid over the course of several years.
The "Big 3" will pay a maximum of $21 billion over 18 years, while Johnson & Johnson will pay a maximum of $5 billion over no more than nine years.
This money has the potential to fund outreach programs in Pueblo like HOPES, needle exchanges, inpatient program, and more.
According to the Pueblo Health Department's Substance Use Data, opioids are the third most common drug associated with overdose deaths in the county.
Resources for those struggling with addiction in Pueblo: