Millions of dollars will soon be coming to Chester County for the prevention and treatment of opioid use disorder.
This follows a vote by the Chester County Commissioners to approve the county’s participation in a national opioid lawsuit settlement among Pennsylvania communities, Johnson & Johnson, and three pharmaceutical distributors.
The county will receive $15.5 million from the settlement. Permitted uses for the funds range from purchasing Naloxone and other FDA-approved drugs that reverse opioid overdoses, to medication-assisted treatment and prevention programs aimed at stopping opioid abuse before it starts.
“Frankly, for all the lives these companies have destroyed by aggressively marketing drugs they knew were addictive and deadly, the price they are paying is not nearly as high as it should be, but we agree with Attorney General (Josh) Shapiro that it makes the most sense to accept this settlement, so we can start putting these funds to work to further battle this scourge,” said Commissioner Marian Moskowitz. “I am especially interested in increasing the county’s support of prevention efforts.”
Those allowable prevention expenditures are largely built around public awareness and education campaigns to ensure the public understands the harm that can come from abusing opioids. Funding can also be used for community anti-drug coalitions that engage in drug prevention, as well as collaborating with nonprofits and faith-based communities to develop systems to support prevention.
Other allowable uses for the settlement funds are directed at treatment such as training more first responders, schools, community support groups, and families on how to administer Naloxone to reverse the effects of an overdose and to increase distribution of Naloxone to individuals who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover the needed service.
The money Chester County will receive is part of Pennsylvania’s $1 billion settlement, which is part of a national $26 billion agreement to resolve about 4,000 lawsuits against these companies. Seventy percent of the funds will go to local governments, 15 percent to a Commonwealth account, and 15 percent to other litigating governmental entities.
The first installment of settlement funds should reach Chester County in late 2022.
“In addition to the funding we will target toward prevention and treatment programs, I was also moved toward agreeing to this settlement by the 10-year sanctions it includes against these companies,” said Commissioner Josh Maxwell. “For example, there will now be oversight and safeguards in place to prevent Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen from shipping suspicious opioid orders. And the agreement has effectively put Johnson & Johnson out of the opioid business. These are significant steps in battling the epidemic.”
As of the end of November, Chester County has recorded 74 accidental fatal drug overdoses in 2021.