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AG James: Funds from opioid settlement could reach states within months

New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks

New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks to the media outside the Touro Law Center on June 29. Credit: James Carbone

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday that some of the funds from the state’s newly announced $1.1 billion settlement with three of the nation’s top opioid distributors and a leading manufacturer could begin flowing into the state within months.

The agreement with Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen and McKesson totals some $26 billion and includes states such as Connecticut, North Carolina and Louisiana. Nassau County stands to receive nearly $87 million and Suffolk County will receive between $87 million and $106 million. The agreement stipulates opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson will pay New York another $230 million.

"This is a bittersweet moment for me and all of us," said James, speaking during a virtual news conference with several other state attorneys general to discuss details of the arraignment. "Yes, we’ve reached a settlement after many months and years of negotiation, but it will not bring back the loss of life. But what it will do is provide prevention and education and abatement and beds to those organizations and hospitals who need it now more than ever."

James praised the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who her office is investigating over sexual harassment claims, for passing legislation that ensures the funds are not placed in the state’s general fund, but into a so-called "lock box" to deal with the fallout from the deadly opioid epidemic.

"It will be more money for education and prevention and recovery programs and treatment options and funds for our first responders so that they can respond to individuals who are unfortunately struggling under the throes of addiction," James said.

The settlement payments will be made to states over an 18-year time period, officials said. About $2 billion of the $26 billion will go toward legal fees. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said he anticipated over 40 states signing on to the settlement. The payment made to each state will be calculated based on the state population, the number of overdose deaths, the number of residents with substance use disorder and the number of opioids prescribed, officials said.

Asked if she was considering bringing criminal charges against any opioid makers or distributors, James declined to comment but noted: "The agreement is silent on that."

group of state attorneys general and the companies involved laid out key details of the settlement on Wednesday, a day after lawyers representing local governments nationwide said they were on the verge of settling.

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