COLORADO SPRINGS — Millions of dollars will soon be headed into Colorado communities to help fight the opioid epidemic thanks to a major legal settlement with a company involved in the promotion of these prescription drugs. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and people working to end this crisis say this is a big deal, but just the beginning of this fight.
Colorado led the way in this legal battle joining together with 47 other states to secure a $573 million settlement with one of the world's largest consulting firms, McKinsey & Company.
Colorado's attorney general says this settlement resolves investigations into the company's role in working for opioid companies, helping them promote their drugs, and profiting from the opioid epidemic. As a part of the settlement, the company recognized the harm its conduct caused and this agreement is the first multi-state opioid settlement to result in substantial payment to the states to address the epidemic.
Colorado will receive nearly $10 million from the settlement to battle the crisis locally.
"It is hard to overstate what a big impact this had been. This is the first time that a company has owned up to their actions that have contributed to this epidemic. This is the first time we are getting recovery dollars through a settlement to address this crisis and that's why this is a big deal," said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.
"These dollars can help grassroots organizations like Southern Colorado Harm Reduction to be able to expand the supports that we have in place to get people to these larger agencies," said Judy Solano of the SoCo Harm Reduction Association
Here in Colorado, the opioid epidemic has led to some major heartache during the last 20 years. During this time, nearly 5,000 Coloradans have died from a prescription opioid overdose. The rate of annual prescription overdose deaths also rose nearly 400%. On an economic level, deaths and addiction have created considerable costs to the state in the form of health care, child welfare, and criminal justice to battle the crisis.
While people involved say this is a big victory, the experts helping people on the ground say the addiction dangers during the pandemic have escalated.
"It has escalated and we have lost many people to overdose in the state. Folks that were doing well. Folks who were recovering. We get phone calls like that quite a bit. People who are struggling to maintain their recovery," said Solano.
"Unfortunately these funds aren't going to be enough. We have so much damage we have to address, but this is a start of what needs to be a continuing sustained effort to repair lives and to help rebuild communities that have been devastated by this crisis," said Weiser.
For state leaders and those who help people in our communities impacted by opioid addiction, the hope is this settlement will be a sign of things to come.
"There's still approximately $27 Billion in litigation that will hopefully be awarded and sent throughout the country to address the crisis," said Soloano. "What this does is it validates the point. It validates the fact that Big Pharma had a big play in how we got here."
Resources and contacts:
Get assistance in Pueblo from the folks at SoCo Harm Reduction Association here.
Springs Recovery Connection is always looking for volunteers to help. CLICK HERE to learn more about how you can help.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs some help, call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text "TALK" to 38255.