COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Local officials representing nearly 85% of Ohio’s residents have agreed to a plan to share any money brought in from settlements with companies over the toll of opioids.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost, both Republicans, announced acceptance of the plan on Wednesday. They said that the communities who have agreed to the plan cover 9.8 of the state’s 11.7 million residents. While some local and county governments did not vote, none voted against the plan, the officials said.
Part of the plan is that Ohio and its local subdivisions would negotiate for settlements jointly.
No other state has announced a similar plan.
Drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies are facing about 3,000 lawsuits in the U.S. over the toll of opioids. Combined, prescription painkillers and illicit versions such as heroin and fentanyl have been linked to more than 430,000 deaths in the country since 2000.
Companies have showed a willingness to settle.
But one obstacle has been animosity between state and local governments over how to divide any money that comes in.
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Under the OneOhio plan, 55% of the money would go to a stateside foundation that would address the crisis, 30% would go to community recovery efforts and be handled by local governments. The final 15% would go to the state government to be used to fund prevention, treatment and recovery services.
“It’s a simple concept, but when we are united, we are stronger. OneOhio puts us in the best position to face the drug companies (that) did so much to destroy lives and communities when they got Ohioans hooked on their highly addictive products,” DeWine said in a statement.
A lawsuit filed by the state, an epicenter of the crisis, against the drug industry could go to trial later this year.
So far, companies have mostly settled cases before trial.
Two proposed nationwide settlements, from drugmakers Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt, are being pushed through bankruptcy courts.
And a group of three distributors and two drugmakers has made a national settlement offer that could be worth $88 billion over time in cash, treatment drugs and services. But a group of states, including Ohio, has pushed back against that plan.
Some of the urgency to reach a deal may have evaporated this week when a judge said he would postpone the next trial scheduled because of the novel coronavirus. Opening statements in the case had been expected to start in early April in Central Islip, New York.
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