Springfield officials accept terms of state opioid settlement

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

City manager does not know how much will be received and how it will be spent.

Springfield is one of multiple local government jurisdictions that will receive thousands of dollars in the OneOhio settlement from opioid distributors found liable for their role in the opioid crisis that impacted so many communities in Ohio.

But for now, city officials are unsure of how much will be received and how it will be spent.

The city had a deadline of April 18 to confirm acceptance of terms for settlement with several pharmaceutical companies and commissioners took action to affirm their acceptance at this week’s city commission meeting.

Among the major pharmacies that will be contributing to the settlement are CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, all part of the agreement to resolve their role in the opioid epidemic and its toll across Ohio.

City Manager Bryan Heck told Springfield City Commission that city staffers are currently developing strategies for how the settlement dollars might be allocated, but he cautioned that the city is still in the dark as to how much might actually be forthcoming.

“Some of the smaller companies involved in the settlement may declare bankruptcy,” Heck said. “That will definitely affect what we might receive.”

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The measures approved at the commission meeting are a second wave of such settlement agreements, and Heck said he expects there to be still another group to come.

“It’s difficult to predict what we will receive from the program,” Heck said.

State officials have indicated that more than $8.6 million of settlement money will be forthcoming to local municipalities, townships and counties over the next 18 years to hold opioid manufacturers and drug distributors accountable for their role in flooding the market with highly addictive opioid products. That represents the 30% portion of the total of all opioid settlement funds designated for local governments.

Another 55% of the $808 million total settlement will go to the OneOhio Foundation, established by the state to oversee distribution of the settlement funds, and 15% to the Office of the Ohio Attorney General as counsel for the state of Ohio.

The settlement calls for all dollars to be used for the abatement of the opioid epidemic and the prevention of future addiction and substance abuse. The agreement states that funds may also be used for past expenditures so long as the expenditures meet that stated criteria.

Local governments receiving the funds are required to work with the OneOhio Recovery Foundation. The non-profit has established requirements for local recipients of the funding to apply the money directly to strategies that will expand the availability of treatment for those affected by substance use disorders; to develop, promote and provide evidence-based substance use prevention efforts; provide substance use avoidance and awareness education; decrease the oversupply of opioids and addiction and support addiction recovery programs provided by qualified and licensed providers.

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However, the OneOhio Recovery Foundation is now under legal scrutiny itself, with a Franklin County Judge ruling the entity must comply with Ohio Sunshine Laws governing public meetings and making decisions in the open.

Franklin County Judge Mark Serrott ruled this past week that OneOhio must be transparent, despite the organizations claims that it is a private, non-profit organization and not a government agency.

Harm Reduction Ohio, another nonprofit advocate for drug policies, sued OneOhio in August alleging that OneOhio has conducted meetings without sufficient advance notice and by teleconference, prohibiting other interested parties and the public from accessing discussions and decisions.

In his recent ruling, Serrott indicated the argument OneOhio is a private entity is disingenuous and Ohioans who have been “tragically impacted by the death of loved ones from overdoses and the untold human wreckage caused by opioid addiction” are entitled to be informed on how the government plans to allocate and spend settlement money.

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