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Ohio Makes Plans To Allocate Eventual Opioid Settlement


Ohio is one of many states that hopes to receive a settlement from a federal case against opioid manufacturers. If that happens, it will need to decide how much each municipality should get, and who decides. The state has to come up with a plan to try and guarantee a fair distribution of the funds. They call it One Ohio.

John Cranley is the mayor of Cincinnati. He joins us from Cincinnati. Thanks so much for being with us.

JOHN CRANLEY: It's great to be with you.

SIMON: What would this money accomplish, ideally?

CRANLEY: People are dying. We have a humanitarian crisis that we're in the epicenter of and have been for many years now. And so there are enormous amount of ongoing costs related to Suboxone, which is a medical prescription that helps people manage their addiction. There's Narcan that we use literally every day to bring people back from death when they OD. And there are beds that we need in addiction crisis centers. And then we have a variety of costs related to the direct service of fire and police services that lead to picking up of ODs.

Local governments all across this country have had to forego basic services or strain basic services in order to deal with a crisis that was not of our doing. This was the doing of companies that were pursuing greed instead of medicine.

SIMON: I would imagine that there are hundreds of communities - I don't have to tell you - in Ohio. Doesn't every city from Akron to Zanesville want a piece of any settlement?

CRANLEY: Absolutely, which is why we have basically agreed to a distribution model that's based on a combination of population harm, meaning addiction rates and distribution of pills by county and jurisdiction, that, you know, who knows if it's perfect, but it's close enough. As a general matter, the local governments have gotten on board with that distribution. The bigger issue is making sure that we, in fact, get that money, whatever amount it ends up being, distributed back to local governments.

SIMON: How do you do that, Mr. Mayor?

CRANLEY: So what we're proposing, the local governments are proposing is that all monies that Ohio receives in a settlement be distributed by a formula back to deal with the Narcan, the Suboxone, the needle exchanges, the beds that are needed, the fire and police services that are needed to deal with the crisis. This is the one issue that we're still negotiating with the governor and the attorney general, who are trying to keep a lot of the money in a foundation instead of distributing it back out to local governments. And on behalf of local governments who have borne the brunt of this crisis, we have ongoing crisis. We have ongoing ODs every day. We have ongoing addiction issues every day. And this crisis, sadly, is far from over. And so any and all resources that we get should be used for that purpose.

SIMON: Do you have any concern that sometimes the history of these settlements is that a lot of it winds up getting eaten by what I'll kindly refer to as bureaucratic carrying costs - lawyer fees, establishing an agency to administer it that winds up taking a lot of money?

CRANLEY: Oh, yes. The lawyer fees I can't do much about. But that is the last big issue that we're sort of having a friendly debate with the governor and the attorney general is that they want to create a bureaucracy and a foundation and pay an executive director and a bevy of experts in this. And what we at the local government level are saying is we don't need experts. We need Narcan. And we don't need to study the problem. We need more beds for addiction crisis centers. We need to ameliorate the incredible harm that it has caused and it's continuing to cause.

SIMON: John Cranley is the mayor of Cincinnati. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.

CRANLEY: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: February 29, 2020 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story implied that a settlement agreement has been reached between Ohio and opioid manufacturers. There has been no agreement yet.