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Health authority launches website on opioid settlement funds

The Oregon Health Authority has launched a new website to share updates on opioid settlement funds.

The Oregon Opioid Settlement Funds site has background on multi-state litigation against the pharmaceutical industry involving Oregon. It also has links to national settlement agreement sites, and describes how much money is available, what it can be used for, and how the settlement funds will be distributed in Oregon. The website will also provide support for opioid prevention, treatment and recovery around the state.

Oregon drug overdose deaths more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, an alarming trend driven largely by misuse of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, an OHA analysis found. 

Preliminary data indicate this trend continued in 2022. A review of State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS) and Oregon death certificate data by analysts from OHA’s Injury and Violence Prevention Section found that the number of unintentional/undetermined fentanyl overdose deaths jumped more than 600% between 2019 and 2021.

The site also offers people the opportunity, if interested, to apply to serve on the Oregon Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Board, which will determine how the state uses its share of funds from the settlements with the opioid industry. 

“These settlement funds will provide much-needed opportunities for cities and counties in Oregon to help their communities begin healing from the ravages caused by the pervasiveness of these drugs over the last decade,” said John McIlveen, Ph.D., state opioid treatment authority, OHA Health Systems Division. “We’re looking forward to working with our local partners to get these funds distributed as soon as they become available.” 

The money to be distributed throughout Oregon has been earned by lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers sued by the State of Oregon. Four suits were reportedly settled in July 2021. The OHA says these lawsuits hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic, and in marketing prescription opioids while downplaying their risks to consumers and health care providers.

The OHA says about $333 million will go to the State of Oregon over the course of the next 18 years, with 45% of these funds going to an Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment and Recovery fund managed by the OHA, and the rest going directly to cities and counties with populations of more than 10,000 people. The OHA adds that another $503 million will go to Oregon’s Native American tribes. Furthermore, additional lawsuit settlements are expected to add to the pool of funds.