Akron Beacon Journal
By Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board
Money won’t bring back the more than 1,000 local lives lost since 2013. Nor will it immediately ease the pain of addiction in the lives of countless others and their loved ones. It’s way too late for quick fixes.
But the $326.6 million in settlement agreements recently reached in U.S. District Court by Summit and Cuyahoga counties in the so-called bellwether case against the manufacturers and distributors of addictive opioids should make a significant difference.
The defendants continue to deny responsibility for flooding markets with their addictive pills, including 168 million supplied in Summit County alone from 2006 to 2012, according to a Washington Post analysis of DEA data. That’s 44 pills per year for every person living here.
We all know the real truth. A trial would have been devastating for these companies. Their willingness to cut deals speaks volumes about the evidence against them. Perhaps there’s even some awareness of the civic disaster their greed spawned throughout Ohio and beyond.
What’s certain is a settlement will allow people to obtain more help as quickly as possible.”
By our math, Summit County’s current share of $326 million in cash and treatment drugs should net roughly $90 million (depending on attorney expenses) with several more defendants still awaiting trials likely to be held in 2020. That figure also does not include original defendant Perdue Pharma, which is working on a national settlement.
Summit County leaders — including local governments — deserve credit for taking some measure of risk two years ago in pursuing this case, which is just one of 2,000 or so such lawsuits filed by state and local governments. They surely never dreamed a federal judge would pick Summit and Cuyahoga to become the test federal case, drawing the attention of national media leading up to last Monday’s last-minute settlement.
Now, the question becomes how to best spend these and future proceeds.
Those decisions will appropriately be guided by a new Opioid Abatement Advisory Council to be designated by leaders from the county, city of Akron, the remaining cities and villages, townships and a representative of Summit County Public Health. Members will include representatives from the health care, addiction treatment, mental health, child welfare, education and public safety fields.
This council will face a challenging task to not only pick the best solutions and services to fund for our residents but to also ensure the dollars are never used for unrelated expenses. We also don’t want to see current funding for addiction services shifted in any way to cover other government needs.
Every dollar needs to benefit addicts or anyone else impacted by the opiate epidemic, including first responders on the front line of reviving those who overdose. Educating the public about how addiction is a disease — albeit one that may result from bad decisions — also would be quite helpful.
We’ll all be living with the consequences of this epidemic for years to come. This money must be spent wisely.
(c)2019 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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