Opioid settlement funds could reach Nassau in months

Robert Pelaez
Attorney General Letitia James said funds from a historic opioid settlement could be entering New York in the coming months. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced last week that funds from settlements with a variety of opioid manufacturers could begin to come into the state in the coming months.

Officials announced that the funds are part of a historic $1.1 billion settlement between the state of New York and McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, three of the nation’s largest drug distributors. Globally, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen will pay up to $21 billion over the next 18 years and Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years, more than half coming in the first three years, according to James’ office.

“The numerous companies that manufactured and distributed opioids across the nation did so without regard to life or even the national crisis they were helping to fuel,” James said in a statement.

Officials said Nassau County will receive close to $87 million from the settlement to go along with an additional $26 million in settlements with pharmacy chains CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and Walmart. Officials said an additional $15.3 million is expected to come to Nassau from pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson as part of a $230 million settlement throughout the state of New York also secured by James in late June.

“While no amount of money will replace the countless lives that have been affected, we can save future lives by expanding our support network and increasing funding for mental health and addiction programs, along with prevention efforts,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement last week.

Countywide non-fatal opioid-related overdoses subsequently dropped 21 percent from 2017’s levels to 217 cases in 2019, while fatal overdoses fell 15 percent to 44, according to Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

But fatal drug overdoses jumped 34 percent in Nassau in 2020, according to new statistics reported by Newsday. There were 287 fatal drug overdoses in the county last year, with 60 suspected overdose deaths that have not yet been confirmed by the medical examiner’s office, the paper reported.

Drug enforcement also dropped because of the restraints of the coronavirus, but the pandemic clearly did not stop drugs from being pushed into communities, Ryder said. County cops made just 294 heroin arrests in 2020, down from 766 in 2017, according to the commissioner.

Nassau County legislators said the settlement funds will be put into a special revenue fund to provide education and treatment to Nassau residents suffering from the opioid epidemic.

“By creating this special revenue fund, we will ensure that every dollar coming from these settlements goes to the people that need it most,” Nassau Legislator Bill Gaylor (R-Lynbrook) said.

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Robert Pelaez

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