Commissioners discuss opioid lawsuit funds

BROWNSTOWN — The first annual installment of Jackson County’s portion of the state’s opioid settlement funds should be released sometime later this month.

The issue about the potential distribution of those funds, which total $1,664,993.83, was raised by J.L. Brewer, director of Jackson-Jennings Community Corrections, during a recent county commissioners meeting at the courthouse.

“I am here about the opioid lawsuit funds,” Brewer said.

He said he just wanted commissioners to know his agency is working on a plan to request some of those funds in the future when they become available.

“The last I saw anything about the funds, the payments were supposed to be coming out in the fall of 2022,” Brewer said. “I don’t know if that has happened yet or not, and if there is a process, can somebody let us know? We want to be involved and at least submit a proposal for those funds.”

County Attorney Susan Bevers said the county has not received any of those funds yet.

“We did receive a notice from litigation counsel that the funds have been transferred to the state,” she said.

“The most recent update that came out — yesterday (Monday) — is that hopefully by mid- to late November, the local governments are going to start getting their portion for 2022,” Bevers said. “After that, we are going to get one every year.”

She said there is not a timeline for when those funds are going to be released each year. The payment period ends in 2038.

Bevers said under Attachment E in the settlement agreement, there are parameters for the use of those funds.

“We have to use at least 85 to 86½% for treatment and remediation and things of that nature,” she said.

In Jackson County’s case, the amount to use for abatement (drug-related use issues) is $1,268,603.26, and the unrestricted amount is $395,390.57. The county also received another $158,657.68 for attorney fees for those who represented the federal lawsuits against three opioid distributors, McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource-Bergen, and opioid manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson.

If those parameters are not met, the county would be in violation of the settlement, and that could jeopardize future payments, Bevers said.

“It’s very technical about what we can do and what we can’t do with the money,” she said. “So we have to make sure we follow the rules.”

She said she also plans to reach out to other counties to see how they are dealing with the distribution of the funds.

Commissioners President Matt Reedy said it would seem community corrections might qualify for funds since the agency does a lot of drug testing of clients at the work release center in Seymour.

Brewer said the agency is looking at a medication-assisted treatment program and expanding the mental health treatment.

The county’s four municipalities also are slated to receive funds from the settlement.

Brownstown’s abated share is $5,937.28 and its unrestricted share is $1,855.14; Crothersville’s abated share is $3,238.05 and its unrestricted share is $1,387.75; Medora’s abated share is $1,422.89 and its unabated share is $1,422.89; and Seymour’s abated share is $79,559.26 and its unrestricted share is $24,859.27.

The state received $507 million from the settlement and is distributing half to local governing bodies around the state. The attorney fees totaled $24 million.