In recent years, Washington state has been awarded more than $1.1 billion in court judgments and settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors. Nearly $35 million of it is headed to the local governments of Spokane County.
As the damage caused by the opioid crisis has come into stark relief in recent years, states and other levels of government have sued companies for fueling the epidemic.
Here are the sums won for Washington state residents as of the end of 2023:
- $518 million awarded through a joint resolution with distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen.
- $183 million from manufacturer Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family bankruptcy.
- $120.3 million in a settlement with Walgreens.
- $110.7 million in a settlement with CVS.
- $90.8 million in a settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals.
- $62.6 million in a settlement with Walmart.
- $50 million in a settlement with Allergan.
- $13.5 million in a settlement with McKinsey, a consulting firm that advised Purdue Pharma.
- $7.7 million from the Mallinckrodt bankruptcy.
“My legal team and I took on some of the largest corporations in the world for their role fueling the opioid epidemic – and won. We recovered more than $1.1 billion for Washington and local jurisdictions to combat the Fentanyl crisis that is devastating families,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement.
The two largest amounts reached were made while at trial rather than a settlement prior to extensive litigation. In the 2019 lawsuit against McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, Ferguson alleged the companies would not investigate suspicious orders of opioids and failed to alert law enforcement when they were required to do so.
The lawsuit was made after Ferguson rejected a national settlement that would have awarded Washington $46 million less. He also rejected a $70 million offer from Purdue Pharma but eventually won $183 million from the Sackler family bankruptcy.
“Washington is receiving more than $200 million more because we rejected national settlements in order to fight in court. I wrote into the agreements that these resources must be used to combat the epidemic, and that approximately half of the resources are going to local governments to address the crisis at the local level,” Ferguson said. “We’re not done – we’re still fighting three of the largest companies in the world in court.”
Of the more than $400 million of the funds set aside to help local governments, Spokane County will receive a total of $35,603,225.81 over the coming years.
The local funds must be spent on specific uses related to the opioid epidemic and include expenditures such as improving treatment, providing support and resources for those with addiction, education on the danger of opioid use, and support to first responders.
Here is how those funds are broken down within Spokane County:
- $22,299,605.19 – Spokane County government.
- $12,376,616.19 – City of Spokane.
- $496,496.35 – City of Cheney.
- $274,302.80 – City of Spokane Valley.
- $156,205.28 – City of Liberty Lake.
Only cities with more than 10,000 residents are eligible for a distribution of funds separate from those given to the county.
Use of these funds in combating opioid addiction and the aftermath are being coordinated by the Spokane County Opioid Abatement Council, which is made up of representatives from local governments in Spokane County and nearby areas in Eastern Washington.
The council will also develop and maintain a public dashboard to publish a centralized list of how the funds are being used in each municipality. Some governments have begun to receive opioid abatement payments, but these funds have largely not been allocated.
Based on a survey conducted by Spokane County, residents’ top priorities for the opioid funds include supporting those in treatment, opioid use disorder medical care, resources and education directed at youth, and providing services to those in the criminal justice system who experience addiction. Over half of respondents selected the first two funding areas as priorities, while youth services and criminal justice was a priority of 36.3% and 33% of those who took the survey.
Based on the survey results, Spokane County has recommended immediate spending on Narcan, community education on the anti-overdose drug’s use and first responder education. The first responder funding would also partner them with a behavioral health professional who can connect those in need with resources. The county’s administrative staff also proposed spending a portion of the funds to expand Maddie’s Place, which provides treatment to infants exposed to drugs or alcohol in the womb.
Spokane County has received $2 million of the allotment so far. Given the many varying settlement agreements, county commissioners are unsure how much money the county will receive each year. As a result, Spokane County is focused on these one-time payments for now.
“We don’t want to commit to funding agencies without some idea of ongoing sustainability. And so we’ve got a couple different recommendations. One for one-time enhancement to support existing services, some for housing support, and then also some for first responders, education prevention and engagement in the community,” Spokane County OAC representative Justin Johnson said at last week’s meeting.
Liberty Lake plans to use the majority of funds to replace Narcan used in their school system but is also considering the creation of a crisis intervention program or drug prevention program in their school system, according to the city’s OAC representative. The City of Spokane did not have a representative at the meeting. Cheney and Spokane Valley are still in a planning phase and gathering input from their communities, according to the cities’ respective OAC representatives.