Wisconsin could see more than $400M under proposed agreement to tackle opioid epidemic

NOW: Wisconsin could see more than $400M under proposed agreement to tackle opioid epidemic

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin could see over $400 million under a proposed agreement with opioid distributors and one manufacturer.

The proposed agreement is part of a multistate investigation Wisconsin's Attorney General Josh Kaul and the Wisconsin Counties Association joined in 2019 looking into practices of opioid distributors.

If a deal is reached, Wisconsin counties and the state would receive over $400 million, according to Kaul. A total of 30 states would have to agree to the terms in order to receive the funds. As of right now, state law would divide that money with 70% to local governments and 30% to the state Department of Health Services.

Kaul said there seems to be broad consensus with other states to the terms and he's optimistic millions will flow to help address opioid abuse.

"We are finally at the point in these cases now where we are getting real dollars that will hopefully soon be going to communities to help fight this epidemic," Kaul said. "This has the potential to transform our response."

The funding would be used for drug treatment and prevention efforts. Alexandria Kohn, Coordinator for Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition at Community Advocates said the possibility of getting some of this revenue would be a game changer.

“I think it would be really helpful to have these additional resources coming to these different organizations and offices," said Kohn. "While we were in an opioid crisis before the pandemic, I think this has really shown our infrastructure couldn't handle the sheer amount of people who are needing substance abuse help and resources."

Drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin increased by more than 25% in 2020 as many were isolated during the pandemic. The troubling statistic is a new record that cost the lives of more than 1,500 people last year. That's up from about 1,200 in 2019.

"When the world went on pause, we saw people who were in the midst of their substance abuse and misuse, that did not stop and those resources we needed," Kohn said.

All Wisconsin counties, except for Polk, joined the opioid lawsuit filed years ago targeting opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

“This tentative settlement is a very important step in bringing resolution to the litigation surrounding an epidemic that has had a devastating impact on our county clients both in Wisconsin and across the nation," said Erin Dickinson of Crueger Dickinson represents 67 of the Wisconsin counties and is a member of the Executive Committee comprised of representative lawyers leading the nationwide litigation.

The opioid settlement funds would come on top of another proposed agreement with the Sackler family and opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma which is poised to bring about $65 million to Wisconsin.

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