DENVER – All 64 counties in Colorado and most of its municipalities have agreed to a framework on how to divide up what the state believes will be about $385 million in money from a series of settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors, Colorado’s attorney general announced Tuesday.
Attorney General Phil Weiser announced in July that the state could receive those hundreds of millions of dollars if enough local governments and states agreed to a nationwide deal of up to $26 billion.
In August, he unveiled the framework for the agreement within Colorado, saying the settlement money could amount to up to $400 million under the memorandum of understanding.
The state said Colorado is among the first states to reach the levels of local government participation needed to get the maximum amount of money under the settlements ahead of a deadline later this month.
“By bringing together this amazing level of local government support well in advance of the January 26 sign-on deadline, Colorado is demonstrating its collaborative solving problem culture and commitment to combating the opioid epidemic,” Weiser said in a statement. “As a result, we as a state will be poised to act on our opioid response plan as soon as settlement dollars come to our state.”
Under the memorandum of understanding reached between Weiser’s office and local governments, the state is split up into 19 regions, which will receive 60% of the settlement money. Each region will have boards comprised of local government officials that will work to decide on how to best utilize the money for their areas when it comes to helping stem the opioid crisis.
Twenty percent of the funds will go to local governments that have signed on to the agreement, though those local governments will be able to choose to allocate their respective money to the county or region in which they are included.
Ten percent will be put in an infrastructure fund to help build up programs and facilities in regions that lack them, and the final 10% will be managed by the attorney general’s office and be put toward prevention and education programs, among other things.
Weiser’s office said the settlements should be finalized and the money flowing into Colorado this year, with the payments from Johnson & Johnson coming in over nine years – the bulk of it during the first three years of distribution – and the remaining money coming in over an 18-year period.
Colorado has already received $8 million of a $10 settlement with McKinsey & Company, and Weiser’s office said more settlement money would come in when Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals finishes its bankruptcy proceedings.
“Reaching 100% signatures from counties is a huge success and our commissioners are very proud of this. The members of Colorado Counties, Inc. truly appreciate the partnership counties developed with the attorney general’s office during this entire process and believe this positive partnership is one of the reasons we reached 100% participation from counties. This kind of collaboration and partnership is how government should work and is something the attorney general modeled well,” said John Swartout, the executive director of Colorado Counties, Inc., which helped develop the framework along with others.
According to Colorado data, more than 7,600 Coloradans have died from accidental opioid overdoses over the past 20 years, and around 1,500 died from an opioid overdose last year.
Preliminary CDC data show a record number of Americans died of drug overdoses last year, and deadly overdoses were up 30% over the year prior.