Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Thursday morning that Colorado has a plan to distribute $400 million from drug makers as part of a national settlement related to opioid abuse.
The state Colorado Department of Law reached agreement on a framework to distribute the money after working with representatives from the counties, municipalities, other local government entities, the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties Inc. over the last 18 months, Weiser's office said Thursday morning.
State attorneys general announced in July that they had reached a $36 billion settlement for the expense and harm of opioid addiction.
The bulk of the money for Colorado, $300 million, will come from Johnson & Johnson. Purdue Pharma is responsible for $75 million, as well as settlement money from other makes and distributors.
Colorado has hundreds of opioid deaths a year, and the state legislature has poured money into prevention programs the last few years. The National Institutes for Health found that in 2018 there were 45.1 opioid prescriptions for every 100 residents of Colorado.
Those who receive settlement money must use it to address opioid abuse and invest in prevention, recovery, education and the criminal justice system's costs related to drug abuse.
“The opioid framework is a shared commitment across Colorado for investing the opioid settlement funds our state will receive to rebuild lives and communities," Weiser said in a statement. "The ongoing opioid epidemic is 25 years in the making. The framework, and the collaborative problem-solving spirit we are calling for,—promises a new way forward.”
He continued, “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build much-needed capacity to support drug treatment, recovery and prevention and education programs. In so doing, we will honor those impacted by the epidemic and we’ll save the lives of countless others from overdose and addiction.”
Oversight will come from a 13-member General Abatement Fund Council, as well as from annual financial reports submitted to the Department of Law, with the information available to the public on a website.
The attorney general's office provided statements from local leaders.
“This work represents a united effort between local governments and the state to address the loss, suffering, and multi-generational impacts of the opioid crisis on our communities," Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. "The epidemic of opioid addiction and its consequences touch every community, every demographic and every single one of us in some way.”
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers stated, “As mayor of Colorado Springs, I’m pleased that the Colorado attorney general’s office was able to secure the necessary level of support for Colorado to join in this settlement. Opioid abuse has been a longstanding scourge in Colorado and I’m hopeful the flow of funds made available by this settlement will help combat the problem in our state.”
John Swartout, executive director of Colorado Counties Inc., added, “The partnership that has developed between counties and the attorney general’s office is invaluable. I am very pleased with the work that has been done the past 18 months to help reach this (agreement) that will benefit all counties and the work counties do to combat the impacts of opioid addiction.”
The Opioid Crisis Response Plan is available by clicking here.