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Lamont wants to use opioid settlements to fund support for people with addiction

opioid pills
David Kessler

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and state Attorney General William Tong joined the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council to urge lawmakers to take action against the opioid crisis.

A $26 billion nationwide settlement has opioid distributors and manufacturers like Cardinal, McKesson and Johnson & Johnson starting to make payments to states in July.

“Apart from COVID, and COVID notwithstanding, I think many of us can agree that one of the worst, if not the worst, public health crisis in America, is the opioid and addiction crisis,” Tong said. “I say that, because hopefully we're getting through COVID and we can put it behind us. But when COVID is gone, we will still have the opioid addiction crisis, which last year cost us nearly 1,400 lives in Connecticut, and more than $10 billion in economic damage.”

Connecticut will receive $300 million from settlements over the next 18 years. Johnson & Johnson will pay $5 billion over nine years with $3.7 billion paid during the first three years. The other three distributors will pay up to $21 billion over the span of 18 years.

Lamont has proposed using that money to set up a committee to help people with addiction access counseling and treatment. He plans on establishing an Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee which would be made up of state and local government experts, health care professionals and survivors and families of addiction.

“If we found one thing after two years of COVID, we can't simply dictate things,” Lamont said. “You need a trusted advocate; you need somebody people believe in to be sending the message. When these folks come in for treatment, they need that advocate, they need that coach, they need that person who maybe walked in their shoes some years ago, and that's how you help people get back on their feet.”

A program that’s already in effect is the Live Loud program from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The program seeks to eliminate the stigma around opioid addiction. The program has coaches to help people with addiction, which Lamont praises.

Lamont said the money will help fund more substance use prevention programs, while also funding addiction study programs and treatment services.

The nationwide settlement also requires pharmaceutical industry changes that could prevent a crisis like this from happening again. It also settles thousands of lawsuits over the companies’ roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic. The court also ordered Johnson & Johnson to stop selling opioids, and stop funding grants to third parties that promote opioids.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.