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Hamilton County area will get more than $55 million from opioid settlement to 'clean up the mess' caused by addiction

herion syringe
Wikimedia Commons

The Hamilton County area is getting roughly $55 million from a national opioid settlement and could start getting the money as soon as next month. Northern Kentucky counties will receive more than $20 million, but may have to wait slightly longer for the payout.

Attorney Peter Mougey says the money is intended to "clean up the mess" caused by opioid addiction, after millions of people became addicted to opioids after being legally prescribed the painkiller after car crashes, sports accidents, and long-term pain.

"What that does is it impacts our communities that have expended tremendous resources to try to address the problems, whether it be through treatment, whether it be through first responder calls, whether you name it. I mean the communities, especially in southern Ohio, have been just havocked with opiate use and abuse," he said.

Last year, roughly 454 people died of overdose deaths in Hamilton County, according to the coroner's office. That's down from 499 in 2020 and 487 in 2019. It's also lower than 2017, when the city reached a peak in the past decade of 570 overdose deaths.

The money from the settlement is allocated for addiction treatment, prevention, education, and safety. Mougey says it will be distributed in two waves: late April or May and in July or August.

The Hamilton County Addiction Response Coalition says it's creating a regional fund to determine how to spend the money.

Ohio will be among the first states to receive money from the settlement because it was one of the first states in the country to reach an agreement between the cities, counties and the state on how to allocate the funds.

Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus says the breakdown of where that money goes is as follows:

  • Direct allocation to Cincinnati: $3,872,795.76
  • Direct allocation Hamilton County: $11,796,568.08
  • Direct allocation to other subdivisions in Hamilton County: $3,219,273.16
  • Cincinnati/ Hamilton Region 2 foundation allocation: 36,396,145.01

Kentucky is also receiving money from the settlement, with northern Kentucky counties by Cincinnati expected to receive roughly $20 million.

Mougey says Campbell and Boone counties will likely see around $6 million dollars and Kenton County is getting about $10.5 million.

"It'd be a game changer for the state of Ohio and for Kentucky, which are two of the hardest hit areas in the country," he said.

The settlement money is from a lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. The latter three companies are considered the “Big Three” drug distributors who Mougey says had the legal responsibility to monitor the distribution of opioids and flag suspicious orders.

"They didn't perform any due diligence before these orders were shipped, and they just kept shipping opiate pills despite their federal regulations. That's the crux of this case, the core of the case against the distributors," he said.

The massive distribution of opioid pills throughout the country created a prescription and heroin drug surge in the country that, at its height, killed more people in a year than throughout the entire Vietnam War, according to national data.

Previously, distribution companies were supposed to self-monitor suspicious orders. But the lawsuit dictates that a third-part will create and monitor a centralized system that will flag suspicious orders. The work will be done with collaboration from the companies, but it has not been determined who will run the oversight.

In total, about 750 cities and counties will receive $26 billion from the lawsuit.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.