Hamilton County Joins Statewide Opioid Settlement

Mar 5, 2020

The Hamilton County commissioners passed a resolution Thursday night to participate in a proposed statewide settlement of a number of lawsuits filed against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Friday is the deadline for local governments to decide if they want to participate in the "One Ohio" memorandum of understanding (MOU). There's no settlement yet, but this would set the framework for how the money would be distributed to the local governments who have lawsuits pending.

Those governments, along with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost, have been trying to reach the framework for several months. The goal is to present a united approach during settlement talks with opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The MOU proposes that all opioid funds would be divided with 30% going to local governments, 55% to a foundation, and 15% to the attorney general's office.  That foundation would fund "evidence-based substance abuse/misuse prevention efforts" around the state.

Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus is supportive of the MOU.

"We will get a share of that 30% to continue to do some of the work that we've been doing in this community to save lives and get people into long-term recovery," Driehaus said.

Right now, there's no firm dollar amount attached to the proposed statewide settlement. Some have suggested it could be $3 billion, which reportedly is the same amount of the settlement reached with the tobacco industry several years ago.

If that amount were correct, it would mean about $1 billion going to local governments.  

For Hamilton County, that would be about $58 million. Cincinnati also filed a lawsuit and it could receive $19 million. Settlement money would also be distributed to other cities, villages and townships in Hamilton County.

Driehaus said she spoke with leaders in several other counties Thursday who indicated support for the proposed MOU.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley told The Washington Post last week that he was "preparing to make a counteroffer to the plan."

In a letter to DeWine and Yost, several elected officials, including Cranley, wanted the local government share to be unrestricted, and if the foundation couldn't agree on a distribution plan for its funds within 90 days, those would be returned to local governments.

A representative for Mayor Cranley on Thursday said it was their belief the Friday deadline was going to be extended, and additional talks would continue.

At least two counties have already settled their lawsuits.

Three drug distributors and a major drug maker agreed to a $260 million dollar settlement last year with Cuyahoga and Summit counties over the toll taken by opioids opioid in those counties.  

Governments around the United States have filed similar lawsuits, and many of them have been consolidated into one large case before a federal judge in Cleveland.