by James DeHaven, Reno Gazette Journal, April 6, 2022
State and local officials are about to get a major cash infusion in their fight against Nevada’s worsening opioid epidemic.
Attorney General Aaron Ford on Monday announced the Silver State, one of those hardest-hit by the addiction crisis, will start receiving payment of $284 million in settlement funds awarded after a lengthy, multistate court battle with opioid distributors and manufacturers.
Ford said opioid-related deaths spiked by 40 percent in 2020, killing a record-breaking 484 Nevadans and underscoring the need for financial relief that’s expected to start arriving as soon as this week.
“With this money, Nevada and its local governments can and will establish programs and services that are needed right now,” Ford said during a news conference at Reno City Hall. “Every day without these services is a day the problem continues to get worse.
“While we have won battles, this war is not finished. … We will bring to justice those who have caused harm to Nevada and its residents.”
Nevada’s top cop earlier this year debuted a rough framework for ensuring settlement dollars go to places most affected by the flow of oxycontin, fentanyl and other opioids that have fueled major recent surges in drug overdoses and deaths.
Washoe County is due to receive at least $3.1 million under the arrangement, one that Ford said would fairly and equitably divide court-ordered payments from drugmakers.
The dollars will also be used to develop a statewide needs assessment authored by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, which is required to help steer the funding allocation process under a law passed early last year.
Agency officials anticipate finishing that assessment by June, and hope to start releasing funds to community agencies by early fall.
Ford’s office initially balked at a sprawling $26 billion settlement deal struck last year with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and distributors McKesson, AmericsourceBergen and Cardinal Health. But Nevada ultimately reunited with the coalition of states who won the payment. It also received $45 million under a separate agreement reached with prominent opioid marketers at McKinsey & Co.
Ford was joined at Monday afternoon’s news conference by several local leaders, including Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, who has blamed opioids for much of a citywide uptick in homelessness and drug use.
State officials said they expect to receive reports that will allow them to ensure pharmaceutical companies pony up the cash promised to local officials under the settlement agreements.
The next court date in Nevada’s ongoing 2019 lawsuit against other opioid businesses has been set for April 17, 2023.