I’m sure you’ve heard about the settlement agreement that was finally reached in a multi-state lawsuit (including Arizona) against Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson – punishing the firms for their unethical behavior as they marketed their opioid products.

Arizona is set to receive $542 million over the next 18 years to combat an ongoing epidemic after the defendants and state plaintiffs $26 billion settlement for their roles in the opioid crisis. Settlement funds will be disbursed to the state and its subdivisions.

90 cities and towns and all 15 counties are signed on to a framework called the One Arizona Memorandum of Understanding (One Arizona Plan) to expeditiously distribute funds. The One Arizona Plan provides funding for programs to address and ameliorate opioid abuse, and includes reporting requirements for greater transparency of how money is used:

  • 56% of the total settlement will go to local governments for opioid mitigation programs.
  • 44% of the total settlement goes to a State for yet to be determined interventions.
  • Funds must be spent in accordance with approved, nationally recognized strategies to pay for future costs incurred by the State and local governments to address the opioid epidemic.

The funds are in some ways restricted in that they are supposed to go directly to relief and resources related to opioids, including to diversion programs to prevent people from going to prison for an addiction or substance-use disorder.

Because these are long-term funds that recently became available, there’s still not a lot of granularity about how the state and local jurisdictions intend to invest the funds… but county staff is certainly undergoing planning to make sure that they wisely use the funds. A priority for Pima County is to make sure they get input from the community before making decisions- always a good idea.

There’s no information on the ADHS website about the opioid settlement funds. If you do a google search, you’ll see that other states have info about the settlement on their website, but not in Arizona. Perhaps the executive branch is yet to decide whether ADHS or AHCCCS will be the primary recipient of the funds. Who knows?

In any event- we will have a new governor in just 208 days, so perhaps the new governor and their leadership team will finally put together a comprehensive plan for the state funds that will work hand in hand with the counties and cities. Frankly, I think the best steward for the state funds would be AHCCCS rather than ADHS (given current leadership).