Montgomery County has begun receiving settlement distributions from nationwide settlements with three pharmaceutical distributors and an opioid manufacturer that helped to fuel the opioid epidemic. In all, Virginia and its localities will receive approximately $530 million over a period of 16 years in the settlements with the drug distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health, and the prescription opioid manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceutical.
These settlements resulted in part from the efforts of Montgomery County, who first filed suit against these defendants in December of 2018.
Virginia has been a national leader in creating a transparent and orderly process for deploying its opioid settlement funds. Last year, the Office of the Virginia Attorney General successfully partnered with each of the Commonwealth's 133 cities and counties to reach 100 percent agreement in support of a structured program for distributing opioid settlement funds.
"The overall impact the opioid crisis has had on our community is profound," said Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, Sherri Blevins. "Not only have lives been either lost or nearly ruined in many cases, but also the opioid crisis has put a huge strain on our first responders, including law enforcement, as well as on our health and human services throughout the county," said Blevins.
Under the terms of the agreement between the state and its local jurisdictions:
- 15-percent of settlement funds will be allocated to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- 30-percent of settlement funds will be allocated to Virginia’s cities and counties, and at least half of the funds must be spent on community-based opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.
- Each locality’s allocation is based on specific local metrics, including the number of opioid-related ER visits and overdose deaths and the volume of opioid prescription drugs shipped into each locality.
- The remaining 55-percent of settlement funds will be administered by the new Opioid Abatement Authority, established in law by the 2021 Virginia General Assembly, to provide additional and ongoing support for local, regional and state opioid abuse abatement efforts.
Montgomery County received the first in a series of initial payments in the amount of $48,999.52 on July 29. Another payment in the amount of $48,999.52 is anticipated this calendar year. These payments will be used for opioid abatement purposes, which will include support for opioid treatment programs, education and outreach initiatives throughout the community.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, 14,541 Virginians died from opioid-related overdoses between 2007 and 2021. In 2020, 1,478 Virginians died from fatal opioid overdoses -- a 17-percent increase over 2019 and an average of four fatal overdoses per day. Nearly 10,000 people were treated for opioid-related overdoses in Virginia hospital emergency rooms in 2020 -- a 33-percent increase over the prior year.
Fifteen individuals died in Montgomery County from overdose in 2021 and 173 have died from overdose since 2007. In calendar year 2021, New River Valley Community Services (NRVCS) treated an ever-increasing number of clients with substance use disorder. In Montgomery County, 306 individuals were treated at an outpatient clinic. Through the NRVCS higher levels of care, 40 individuals were treated in an intensive outpatient program; 14 were treated in through a partial hospitalization program; and 22 were treated in a residential care program. According to NRVCS, these individuals are a fraction of the total number of residents both seeking treatment and in need of treatment.
Additional legal activities related to the opioid epidemic are still underway, including Virginia’s pending $80 million settlement with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma and its founders, the Sackler family. Going forward, local, regional and state opioid abatement efforts are expected to be further supplemented by additional settlements, verdicts or court orders involving others who participated in the manufacture, marketing, distribution and sale of opioids in Virginia.