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Bill to fund opioid treatment, recovery headed to Gov. Northam’s desk

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Legislation directing funds from lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors to go toward opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery is headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (HB2322) and Senator George Barker (SB1469) carried Attorney General Mark Herring’s legislation in the House and Senate.

This legislation will make Virginia one of the first states in the nation to have a legislatively enacted framework for directing funds from opioid litigation, like the $13 million recently secured through a settlement with McKinsey and Company for its role in “turbocharging” the opioid crisis, towards opioid abatement, treatment and recovery, instead of diverting it to other uses.

“I have made it a top priority during my time as attorney general to hold those responsible for creating, prolonging, and profiting off the opioid crisis accountable,” Herring said. “This crisis has turned lives upside-down and devastated families and communities in every corner of our Commonwealth.

“This authority will ensure that, should I be successful in taking on these companies, a majority of the funds go towards addressing the crisis, expanding treatment and recovery, and saving Virginians. I want to thank Majority Leader Herring, Senator Barker, and the many advocates who worked with us to strengthen and pass this important legislation.”

“Attorney General Herring has worked hard to hold big drug companies accountable for the role that they played in creating and profiting off the ongoing opioid crisis,” Majority Leader Herring said. “This legislation is such an important step in ensuring that structures are created for using abatement money the Attorney General is able to secure goes back to our communities to do the most good as quickly as possible. It is so important that we use this money to expand Virginia’s capacity for opioid use disorder treatment and recovery programs, and to help us turn this crisis around.”

“This opioid abatement authority will be an effective approach to handling money that could come from Attorney General Herring’s work against these pharmaceutical companies who, in many ways, really created this opioid crisis,” Barker said. “With this new authority, Virginia will be a leader in the national movement to hold these drug manufacturers accountable and we can ensure that any judgements or settlements go to where they are needed most – back into our communities.”

“This is an important step in our work to combat the opioid crisis here in Virginia, but there is more that we still need to do and it will be incredibly important to involve the recovery community in every step of that process,” said John Shinholser, president of the McShin Foundation, a Richmond area recovery community and a prominent leader in the fight against substance use disorder. “Attorney General Herring has been a true friend to the recovery community, and a reliable partner in identifying and supporting ideas, laws, and programs that will actually save lives and help people enter long term recovery.”

SB1469 and HB2322 will create a structure and framework for ensuring that “opioid abatement” funds recovered as part of AG Herring’s ongoing lawsuits and investigations against opioid manufacturers and distributors are used to fund opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery.

It will help bring order and predictability to the distribution process if funds are secured, rather than forcing the Commonwealth to wait for a potentially significant influx of money, and then having to decide how to handle it.

The bill will establish an Opioid Abatement Authority controlled by subject matter experts who will ensure that funds are used wisely to support prevention, treatment, and recovery.

The Board of the Opioid Abatement Authority will include:

  • The Secretary of Health & Human Resources or their designee
  • Two medical professionals with expertise in public and behavioral health administration or opioid use disorders and their treatment
  • A representative of the addiction and recovery community
  • An urban or suburban representative from a CSB
  • A rural representative from a CSB
  • A law enforcement official
  • A local government official
  • A local government attorney
  • Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations or their designee and the Chari of the House Appropriations Committee on Appropriations or their designee

The legislation calls for the abatement funds to be partitioned in the following way:

  • 70 percent for opioid abatement split evenly (35 percent each) between regional projects and projects identified as effective by the board of experts.
  • 15 percent reserved for state-identified abatement initiatives
  • 15 percent reserved for locality-identified abatement initiatives

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