Ingham County is set to receive settlements after Michigan joined the nationwide lawsuit surrounding the opioid epidemic.
The lawsuit named Teva Pharmaceuticals, Allergan Pharmaceuticals, CVS Pharmacy and Walmart Pharmacy for their role in prescribing dangerously addictive prescriptions, knowing the risk to patients.
“It was our belief that there were some bad actors in the medical and the pharmaceutical industry who were overselling very dangerous drugs and were not being responsible about it,” said Todd Tennis, chairperson of the Human Services Committee.
The proposed multibillion-dollar settlements could bring $446 million to the state of Michigan over 13 years, according to a press release from state Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office.
General Law Attorney David Mittleman, who is part of the team representing Ingham County in the opioid litigation, provided an update during the Human Services Committee meeting on April 3.
At the meeting, Mittleman discussed the opioid crisis and how it began with doctors prescribing medication that was highly addictive. When doctors stopped providing prescriptions, those who became addicted turned to street drugs.
Mittleman explained the problems that an addict buying off the street faces, which include the high expense and risk of accidental exposure to fentanyl.
Beyond the immediate impact that an opioid addiction has on the person, there are additional effects on the county as a whole. Expenses for law enforcement and medical services are among them.
“There was a massive increase in opioid-related overdose deaths, and it caused a ripple effect,” Tennis said.
The Human Services Committee hopes the settlements will begin making a dent in the nationwide addiction problem.
“Right now we have a crisis, and I think this money is probably going to go a long way towards fixing some of the problems,” said Deputy Controller Jared Cypher.
Though the county does not have a specific plan for how it will spend the money once it is received. They are considering prioritizing access to medical assisted treatment and inpatient treatment, mainly through community agencies that are already providing services.
“I’m glad that we’re finally coming to a resolution,” Cypher said. “We’re seeing the funds and we can put those funds in programming that’s going to help.”
Cypher said prevention and recovery are among the top spending priorities.
The process has been ongoing and slowed down by the pandemic, but it is finally coming to a resolution. Tennis emphasized that although it is not always easy, litigation is one of the most effective forms of policy change.
“I’m grateful that so many local units of government came together and states came together to try and take action,” Tennis said.