WEST CHESTER — When Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced last month that every county in the state had signed on to the massive and historic settlement of an opioid lawsuit that would pay more than $1 billion for addiction treatment and prevention, there was also good news for Chester County.
Instead of the $15.5 million the county commissioners had announced the settlement would yield for such programs, the details of the settlement showed the county was receiving even more. The latest figure of $19.2 million is based on the entire “pot” percentage allocation, with the county percentage allocation set at 2.28%. As the “pot” increases, so does the county allocation.
“We’re always happy to get more money,” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline, whose efforts to tackle the opioid addiction epidemic began years ago and spearheaded the decision to join the litigation.
“The increased funding means more for the issues we prioritize,” to help prevent and treat the effects of addiction that has led to death and devastation of life across the county in the years since Drugs like Oxycontin started being distributed by the medical profession without considering their harmful impact.
“It’s something I’m going to work very closely on, to get some innovative solutions,” Kichline said in an interview Thursday. “I saw it as a very big problem, but I think the settlement is going to be a great opportunity for us.”
Kichline said department chiefs Pat Bokovitch of the county’s Department of Social Services and Vince Brown of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Services are working together to come up with a set of plans for the avenues the county will fund through the settlement. These include prevention and education programs in schools, additional resources for first responders and police, and expanded treatment options for people with addictions.
The $19.2 million will be distributed to the county over nine years, with the first installment due in April. The county’s share compares to $48.7 million for Delaware County, $45.5 million for Bucks County and $35.1 million for Montgomery County.
On Jan. 27, Shapiro announced that by the state deadline, all 67 counties, including 241 local governments with populations of 10,000 or more, had joined the $26 billion opioid deal with the nation’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen – and Johnson & Johnson on the corporate role in creating and fueling the national opioid crisis.
“With this historic support, Pennsylvania is on track to receive the full $1.07 billion, with funds beginning to flow into our communities as early as April to launch programs and strengthen staff to save lives. of those struggling with opioid addiction,” he said. in a report. “This agreement marks the most significant infusion of resources to our Commonwealth to fight this epidemic, fueled by greedy pharmaceutical companies.
“Our work here is not done – this settlement only affects three distributors and Johnson & Johnson,” added Shapiro, who is currently running for governor. “There are more companies and more executives who will pay for what has been done in Pennsylvania. While no dollar amount will bring back what we have lost, this settlement was negotiated to allocate funds to the states and local communities that have been most affected by this crisis and will provide more resources for treatment than any other. previous settlement.
In the county, the colony came with the help of 14 of its 15 municipalities with a population of 10,000 or more, with the sole exception of West Chester.
“Given the severity of the opioid epidemic in the United States, in our county, and yes, even here in East Goshen Township, it is long overdue for the pharmaceutical companies to give us compensation to use on tools to fight this vile addiction that they, the pharmaceutical companies, inflicted on all of us,” East Goshen Supervisors President Michelle Truitt said in a statement.
“Knowing that the drugs they made could be addictive so quickly, even when used ‘as directed by a doctor’, these corporations created an epidemic of massive proportions, permeating all races and classes. economic benefits, reaching almost every family in an insidious way,” said Truitt, whose board of directors formally approved the settlement on Wednesday, even though he had signed before the deadline. “East Goshen will be grateful for the opportunity to use this money wisely, to help save or support some of our residents who must succumb to opioid addiction, whether through the use of Narcan in the hands of first responders or through programs support for the drug-addicted resident or his family members.
Tredyffrin Township Manager William Martin said last week that his board would also retroactively join the settlement after informing the attorney general’s office that the township would accept it.
“It makes sense to us, and I’ve discussed it with (Police Chief Michael Beatty, who encouraged the township to take action),” he said. “There was no reason not to sign.”
Michael Stefano, chairman of West Chester Borough Council, said on Saturday his colleagues had decided not to join the settlement at this time, despite being told by the borough’s solicitor that he could do so at the future if the board members reconsidered. But he could detail the reasons.
“At this point the board felt that we didn’t have enough information and that somehow the deal seemed to be the best for us,” he said in an interview. Asked what the council hoped to have included in the settlement, he objected, saying it involved possible future litigation. “We weren’t looking for anything (specific),” he said.
The funds the county receives will not be allocated on a municipality-by-municipality basis, but will be distributed to schools, ambulance and police services and nonprofit treatment centers as needed, Kichline said.