NJ counties and cities opt for potential $641 million opioid settlement

TRENTON — All county and local governments eligible to participate in the nationwide settlement agreement with drug companies regarding their role in the opioid crisis have agreed to participate, rather than pursue separate legal action.

Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck said as a result, New Jersey and its counties and municipalities are on track to receive the maximum settlement of more than $641 million. Nationally, the settlement amount is $26 billion.

“No amount of money could ever heal the wounds the opioid crisis has caused to so many families,” Bruck said. “But it’s heartening to see our communities in New Jersey joining forces to fight the opioid epidemic together.”

The agreement includes the state, 21 counties and 241 municipalities that either have more than 10,000 residents or have filed related lawsuits. The state signed on last August and local governments had until Jan. 26 to decide.

The settlement agreement was reached with Johnson & Johnson of New Brunswick and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen.

The companies will announce by Feb. 25 whether the deal will go ahead, which will depend on how many counties and municipalities across the country take part.

Governor Phil Murphy said funds from the settlement will support opioid use disorder and harm reduction resources and programs such as education, peer counselling, rehabilitation and treatment.

“I’m proud that our counties and municipalities across the state are coming together to address the crisis,” Murphy said.

The Senate health committee is due to consider a bill on Thursday that would create an Opioid Recovery and Correction Fund and an Opioid Recovery and Correction Fund Advisory Board and provide for funds received from opioid regulations to be used to support prevention and treatment programs for substance use disorders.

The Legislature unanimously passed the bill last June, but Murphy conditionally vetoed it making changes so it would better conform to legal regulations. The Senate accepted the changes on the last day of the legislative session, but the Assembly did not take it up.

According to the state medical examiner’s office, there were 3,081 suspected drug-related deaths in New Jersey last year. This was up 1% from the previous year, which in turn was up 2% from the 2019 total. The peak in drug-related deaths remains at 3,101 in 2018.

Michael Symons is the State House Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].

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