Park County stands to benefit from two major opioid settlements in the near future, even if many see the financial benefit of these payouts as a small drop in the pond compared to the decades of problems some of these drugs have wrought on the community.
Under the OneWyo Memorandum of Agreement framework encompassing the lawsuits, Park County is slated to receive about $880,600, with disbursements spread out over the next 17.5 years. This money can only be spent on preventing opioid abuse.
“It’s some money, but (that) alotted money for that period of time, compared to what opioids have done to Park County and other counties in the state, nothing will ever make up for that,” County Attorney Bryan Skoric said. “It’s something that can be used, I guess, to something good in the future.”
The two agreements are part of nationwide settlements brought by states and local political subdivisions against the three largest pharmaceutical distributors: McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, as well as manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and its parent company Johnson & Johnson.
On Dec. 21, the county commissioners gave approval for the county to enter into the settlements.
Under the settlement terms, the distributors will pay up to $21 billion over 18 years, while Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over no more than nine years, with roughly $22.8 billion in settlement proceeds payable to state and local subdivisions. A total of 65% of the funds will go to local governments and the remaining 35% will be allocated to the state.
“I can’t imagine Park County going after these companies independently,” Skoric said. “It would just be way too expensive.”
In Wyoming, only counties and municipalities with a population over 10,000 are eligible to participate in the state’s settlements. Wyoming will only receive the maximum amount if every eligible subdivision participates in the settlement.
“The more counties that participate brings the funds to a higher level,” Skoric said, adding he has been informed most of Wyoming’s counties have already signed on.
Commissioner Joe Tilden commented on the ambiguity of the state’s formula to calculate funds, noting that some of the state’s lesser populated counties seemed to get the most money.
“What that formula is, I don’t know,” Skoric said.
The maximum amount Wyoming can receive under the settlements is $44 million. The state receives incentives for getting subdivisions to join their suit, as opposed to these entities filing lawsuits on their own. There is no cost to join the settlement beyond forgoing the right to file individual lawsuits.
Park County could still see additional funds through the upcoming Purdue Pharma bankruptcy proceedings, which will disburse funds under the existing MOA.
Under the MOA, local governments are allowed to pool resources across county lines or between cities and counties. In addition, it allows a participating local government to direct its funds to the statewide share.