(The Center Square) – Hamilton County is expected to receive more than $7 million in the statewide $26 billion settlement with an opioid manufacturer and distributor as deaths from fentanyl rise.
A bipartisan coalition of attorneys general announced on July 21, 2021 definitive agreements with prescription opioid maker Johnson & Johnson and Big Three pharmaceutical distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. The companies paid $26 billion for actions that contributed to the opioid crisis and have pledged to change their businesses to improve the safety of opioid prescriptions.
The millions allocated to Indiana are part of the state’s $509 million cut for the larger settlement. Payment is made over the age of 18. The majority will be dedicated to combating drug abuse.
As of October 2022, nearly 30 residents had died from opioid overdoses, 19 of them from fentanyl, according to Hamilton County Coroner John Chalfin. The county has averaged 29 opioid-related deaths per year since 2014, and county records show fentanyl to be the main culprit.
The Indiana Department of Health reported that 2,554 residents died from drug overdoses in 2021, with more than 70% of deaths attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. More than 2,500 Native Americans died from opioids on August 1, 2022.
“We started to see fentanyl showing up around 2014,” Chalfin told the Indy Star. “It was replaced by meth for a while, but then it came back. The victims are scattered everywhere by age. I had a 61-year-old, people in their 50s, very young people.”
Indiana also received funding from pharmaceutical retailers that will be distributed next year. The State of Hoosier received $219 million in a settlement with CVS and Walgreens and $53 million as part of a $3.1 billion statewide settlement with Walmart.
Hamilton County can use its funds for a drug and behavior assessment center and programs for addiction patients, according to Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt. The center, which will be set up on a Riverview Hospital site, would improve the referral and treatment process for overdose victims.
“We want to improve follow-up and outreach to help patients stay on track and stay clean,” Heirbrandt told the Indy Star.
The district will receive more than $1 million on its first payment and approximately $194,000 each year through 2038.