Opioid Settlement Funds
The opioid epidemic specifically refers to the growing number of deaths and hospitalizations from opioids, including both prescription and illicit drugs. Prescription drugs were used to treat pain but also led to addiction of both prescription and illegal opioids. The opioid epidemic affects people in all demographics and from all walks of life.
Over 500,000 people have died from opioid overdoses since 1999. Unfortunately, the crisis has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 106,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2020, more than in any other year. Fortunately, states and local jurisdictions will soon have additional money from the opioid settlements to invest in evidence-based solutions as a result of litigation brought against opioid manufactures, distributors and dispensers. (From the Johns Hopkins website Principles for the Use of Funds from the Opioid Litigation | JHSPH)
Opioid Settlement Funds
The City of Las Cruces is a participant in the national opioid litigation and has started receiving funds from various settlements. The State is receiving 45% of the settlement funds coming to New Mexico while the local entities, cities and counties, will receive 55%. The City receives funds based on agreed-upon formulas in each of the settlements.
Each of the settlements has its own terms, with some entities paying over many years and others making one-time payments. While there are still terms to finalize, at this time payments to the City are estimated to extend through 2038 and are estimated to total $9.8 million.
Use of the Funds
The intent of the settlement funds is to address the harms in the community caused by the opioid crisis. The distributor settlement, in particular, addresses allowable uses for those funds, including:
- Treat opioid use disorder (OUD)
- Support people in treatment and recovery
- Connect people who need help to the help they need
- Address the needs of criminal justice-involved persons
- Address the needs of pregnant/parenting women and their families
- Prevent over-prescribing and ensure appropriate prescribing/dispensing of opioids
- Prevent misuse of opioids
- Prevent overdose deaths and other harms
For the City, allowable uses may include:
- Supporting mobile intervention, treatment, and recovery services
- Training on medication-assisted treatment for first responders
- Housing, transportation, education, job placement, job training for those in recovery
- Partnerships with non-profits, faith-based communities, and coalitions to support those in recovery
- Pre-arrest or pre-arraignment diversion
- Media and public education campaigns to prevent opioid misuse
- Drug take-back disposal programs
- Youth-focused programs to prevent drug misuse
Opioid Settlement Advisory Council
The City of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County have jointly convened an advisory council to make recommendations for the use of the settlement funds. The purpose of the Advisory Council is to create a community-based advisory group of subject matter experts and advocates to make spending recommendations that reflect both the scientific evidence and the needs and desires of the community to address the impact of opioids. This effort aims to coordinate and avoid duplication of effort between the City, County, and the State.
Members were identified based on the categories in the Principles for the Use of Funds from the Opioid Litigation, which is nationally recognized guidance for states, counties, and cities receiving money from the lawsuits against entities that contributed to the opioid epidemic. These planning Principles, coordinated by faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, help jurisdictions create a foundation for effective spending of the monies to save lives from overdose. The target number of members is 10 – 15 (staff and consultants will also attend meetings).
The composition of the Advisory Council includes:
- People with lived/living experience of opioid use disorder, including those receiving medications for opioid use disorder
- Public health practitioners who specialize in substance use and overdose prevention, from organizations such as a local health department or school of public health
- Youth prevention specialists, such as school-based clinicians and staff
- Treatment providers, particularly those that engage with traditionally underserved populations
- Other local stakeholders
- Recovery and other social service organizations; for example, community-based organizations that connect people with housing or employment
The Advisory Council will:
- Continue to identify stakeholder/representatives for the advisory council
- Participate in a needs assessment to understand the needs of the community with respect to the harms of opioids
- Determine a community outreach/input plan
- Prioritize, research, and determine recommendations
- Make recommendations to City Council/County Commission