At the beginning of this year, four massive drug corporations agreed to settle thousands of lawsuits filed in the devastating wake of the overdose crisis. Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson will pay roughly $26 billion for the role they played in the crisis, namely making billions at the expense of our lives, loved ones, and community.
New Jersey is going to receive $641 million from this settlement. All 21 counties in the state are entitled to receive funding, as well as all 241 municipalities that either have populations over 10,000 or have filed related lawsuits against these companies.
It’s amazing news that these corporations, many of which are some of the largest in the country, are finally being held accountable for a disaster that helped cause over 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades. Now is the time to make sure that these funds are spent in ways that directly help those of us impacted by the overdose crisis and save lives.
During a roundtable discussion we were invited to speak at this March, Governor Phil Murphy said, “The funds received from this settlement will aid critical opioid use disorder and harm reduction resources and programs, which will strengthen our ability to save lives by preventing overdose deaths and connecting New Jerseyans to support and treatment when they need it most.” The Governor, as well as Attorney General Platkin, pledged that this money will reach communities directly where it is most needed.
We believe that means investing in community leadership, meeting people where they are, and not leaving anyone behind. We also think this means making sure we get bad actors out of the treatment industry who put profits over our lives and well being. By increasing transparency, accountability, and oversight of this funding—and making sure it goes to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), naloxone, and other harm reduction solutions—we can save lives from being lost to preventable overdose. That’s why we met with Assemblyman Daniel Benson last week: he’s the primary sponsor of bill A1488, which will provide for funds received from opioid settlements to support substance use disorder prevention and treatment programs. We want to make sure that these incoming opioid settlement funds are directed towards services that will prevent overdose deaths AND increase access to evidence-based treatments like MAT and other harm reduction tools. We also proposed to Assemblyman Benson that the bill be amended to include more people with lived experience on the Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund Advisory Council the bill will establish. Thanks to everyone who attended these meetings, and has been taking action to make sure these settlement funds save lives!