Tennessee counties get 1st round of opioid abatement payments
Published 4:56 pm Friday, March 3, 2023
Tennessee’s Opioid Abatement Council is making the first payments from opioid lawsuit settlements to counties totaling more than $31.4 million. The state began processing the direct payments from the Opioid Abatement Trust Fund to county governments this week.
In accordance with terms of the Distributor and Janssen/J&J settlement agreements negotiated by the Tennessee Attorney General, 35-per-cent of proceeds went directly to county governments so that local leaders could direct spending on programs to address the effects of opioids on their citizens and communities.
County leaders are able to select activities from a list approved by the Tennessee Opioid Abatement Council at its meeting in September 2022. Approved uses include a continuum of opioid use disorder treatment programs, medication assisted treatment, recovery supports, and prevention measures.
Claiborne County received $170,037. Forty counties received more than Claiborne, and 54 received less. Shelby County, which includes Memphis, received the most at nearly $3.6 million. Pickett County received the least at $24,376.
“There isn’t a county in Tennessee that hasn’t been touched by the opioid crisis,” said Stephen Loyd, MD, Opioid Abatement Council Chairman. “The funding going to these counties will have an immediate and much-needed impact. We are excited to get this funding out to all 95 counties of our great state, and we can’t wait to see how local leaders put it to good use.”
The remaining 65-per-cent of settlement dollars will be distributed through a competitive grant application process to be established the Opioid Abatement Council. The processes for applying for funding and scoring applications are on the agenda for the Council’s next meeting at the end of the month.
The first payments to come from the Opioid Abatement Trust fund mark a milestone in the state’s work to address the effects of the opioid crisis. Payments from these settlements, while not as large as this initial payment, will continue annually for 18 years.
“While no amount of money will be enough to completely heal broken communities, funds distributed through the Opioid Abatement Trust Fund will provide further resources toward recovery and assist in bringing this epidemic to a halt. The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office will not let up on holding opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable,” said Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti.
“Our hope for these dollars and all the funding that will flow from the Opioid Abatement Trust Fund for years to come is that Tennessee communities begin to repair the damage that has happened and is still happening due to opioid addiction and that people are able to find new lives in recovery and achieve their full potential,” said Marie Williams, LCSW, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner. “We are so grateful to Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, former Attorney General Herbert Slatery, and the tireless team at the Office of the Attorney General because we know their efforts on this essential issue will help define how our state recovers from the opioid crisis.”
Tennessee’s Opioid Abatement Council was created by the Tennessee General Assembly in Public Chapter 491 to manage the disbursement of proceeds from lawsuits relating to opioids. The Council upholds the responsibility to ensure the disbursements of these funds go toward funding programs, strategies, expenditures, and other actions designed to prevent and address the misuse and abuse of opioid products and treat or mitigate opioid use or related disorders or other effects of the opioid epidemic.