Opioid settlement funds to be distributed to local organizations

Opioid settlement funds to be distributed to local organizations
Nassau County will distribute $2.4 million of funds from a statewide opioid settlement, County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced Thursday. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Nassau County is allocating more than $2 million for programs and groups that are fighting an island-wide opioid epidemic, according to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Blakeman said Thursday the county plans to spend $15 million per year over the next four years to fund organizations and initiatives that promote drug education and prevention. The more than $2 million in funds are the preliminary part of this year’s allocation to various groups, officials said.

The funds, he said are part of a historic $1.1 billion settlement between the state of New York and McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, three of the nation’s largest drug distributors. 

Globally, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen will pay up to $21 billion over the next 18 years and Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years, more than half coming in the first three years, according to James’ office.

While officials last year said Nassau County would receive nearly $87 million from the settlement to go along with an additional $26 million in settlements with pharmacy chains CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and Walmart, Blakeman said Nassau could end up with $180 million as a result of the settlement.

Officials said an additional $15.3 million is expected to come to Nassau from pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson as part of a $230 million settlement throughout the state of New York also secured by state Attorney General Letitia James in June 2021.

A total of $2 million from the initial $2.4 million investment, Blakeman announced, will be going to the Nassau University Medical Center’s detox services. The Charles Evans Center of Glen Cove, which provides healthcare to underserved community members, will receive $60,000, according to Blakeman.

Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said Nassau County has received approximately $70 million to date from the settlement, but advocated for more money to be distributed to other organizations and programs combatting drug abuse more rapidly.

While I fully understand the importance of proceeding cautiously, the enormity of the opioid addiction crisis demands an aggressive, bipartisan and collaborative response that gets the bulk of this money into the hands of Nassau County’s trusted partners in prevention, treatment and recovery as quickly as possible,” DeRiggi-Whitton said in a statement.

There were 287 fatal drug overdoses in the county in 2020, with 60 suspected overdose deaths that have not yet been confirmed by the medical examiner’s office, according to the report.

Drug enforcement also dropped because of the restraints of the coronavirus, but the pandemic clearly did not stop drugs from being pushed into communities, Ryder said. County cops made just 294 heroin arrests in 2020, down from 766 in 2017, according to the commissioner.

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