Illinois to spend up to $760 million from lawsuit settlement to confront opioid crisis

The money will come from Illinois’ share of a multistate settlement with drug companies.

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State officials on Friday announced plans to distribute $760 million in funding from a multistate settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors. Funds will go toward “abatement” programs to confront the opioid addiction crisis across Illinois.

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State officials Friday announced plans to combat Illinois’ opioid epidemic with $760 million from a lawsuit settlement with drug companies.

The announcement comes days after drugmakers Allergan and Teva Pharmaceuticals revealed settlement agreements with multiple states totaling more than $6 billion, ending years of litigation with a massive payout second only to the deals reached between states and tobacco companies in the 1990s.

“As this emergency has stolen the lives of thousands of residents, the state of Illinois has been a national leader in fighting back, with our state receiving as much as $760 million over the next 18 years,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a press conference in Chicago with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. “Everyone’s life is worth saving, and this administration will leave no stone unturned as we work to bring the opioid epidemic to an end.”

Pritzker announced the state would form an advisory committee, a steering committee and create the Office of Opioid Settlement Administration within the state Department of Human Services.

Funds will be paid out by the drug companies over a period of 18 years, and initially will flow to organizations already providing drug treatment services across the state, said Department of Human Services Secretary Grace B. Hou.

Some funds from the settlement could be distributed to those agencies as soon as September, Hou said. The settlement does not provide for payments to opioid users or their families. While no funds are available for payouts to individuals or families who suffered from addiction or overdoses, Raoul said the bulk of the settlement dollars are required to go to “abate” the opioid epidemic.

Funds will eventually be distributed across the state, targeting communities based on population, overdose deaths and other factors to ensure that the most hard-hit communities receive equitable funding, Raoul said.

The states had alleged that drugmakers downplayed the addiction risk of their opioid-based painkillers with deceptive marketing and did not take steps to prevent the drugs from being diverted for illegal use. Some 52 states and territories signed onto a landmark, $26 billion agreement with the largest opioid manufacturers.

In the first nine months of 2020, 2,200 people in Illinois died of overdose on prescription or illegal opioids, an increase of 36% from 2019, said state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago.

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