Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has launched a new website to share updates and information on opioid settlement funds, which will be used to support opioid prevention, treatment and recovery efforts around the state.
The Oregon Opioid Settlement Funds site, at www.oregon.gov/opioidsettlement, has background on the multi-state litigation against the pharmaceutical industry of which Oregon was a party and links to national settlement agreement sites. It also describes how the settlement funds will be distributed in Oregon, how much money is available and what it can be used for.
In addition, the site offerspeople the opportunity, if interested, toapply 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 lawsuits hold opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers accountable for their role in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic and for aggressively marketing prescription opioids while simultaneously downplaying their risks to health care providers and the public. The State of Oregon reached resolution with four of these companies in July 2021.
The resolution consists of two agreements and is referred to as the Distributor and Janssen Settlement Agreements.
The 18-member, governor-appointed Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment and Recovery (OSPTR) Board will be responsible for making funding decisions that align with approved opioid prevention, treatment and recovery strategies listed in Exhibit E of the settlement and Oregon’s Strategic Plan for Substance Use Services developed by the state Alcohol & Drug Policy Commission (ADPC). A portion of the state’s funds must go toward a unified and evidence-based state system for collecting, analyzing and publishing data about the availability and efficacy of substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services statewide.
The governor will appoint the board based on the OSPTR Board membership requirements defined in House Bill 4098. The OSPTR Board is expected to begin meeting in late fall 2022.
About $333 million will be awarded to Oregon from the Distributor and Janssen Settlement Agreements over the course of 18 years, beginning this year. Forty-five percent of the opioid settlement funds will be allocated to a new Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment & Recovery fund managed by OHA; 55% will be paid directly to cities and counties with populations of more than 10,000.
About $503 million is going directly to tribes from the Distributor and Janssen Settlement Agreements. All federally recognized tribes are eligible to participate in the Tribal Opioid Settlements, regardless of whether that tribe filed an opioid lawsuit. Oregon’s tribes are eligible to receive a portion of the $503 million settlement.
Oregon followed the model developed through the national opioid settlement to determine how much funding each eligible city and county would receive. This allocation formula is based on population and public health metrics.
Oregon anticipates receiving additional opioid settlement funds from other lawsuits. However, the timing, amount and allowable uses of these funds have yet to be determined. Generally speaking, the funds must be used for opioid prevention, treatment and recovery strategies that are listed in the settlement. They may not be used for other purposes.
Cities and counties will decide how their funds are used.
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 unintentional/undetermined drug overdose deaths increased from 496 in 2019 to 1,072 in 2021. The 2021 figure doesn’t include all fourth-quarter overdose deaths, which are still being tallied and analyzed.
The number of unintentional/undetermined fentanyl overdose deaths jumped more than 600% between 2019 and 2021, from 71 to 509, respectively.
Of all unintentional/undetermined drug overdose deaths in 2021, 47.5% were due to fentanyl; in 2020, fentanyl caused 32.1% of overdose deaths; in 2019, the drug was responsible for 14.3% of overdoses.
Overall, unintentional/undetermined overdoses from opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, also rose sharply during that time, from 280 to 739 deaths – a 164% increase. Unintentional/undetermined stimulant – methamphetamine – overdoses doubled, from 325 to 658 deaths between 2019 to 2021.
The Oregon Department of Justice provides additional information on the settlement here.