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Kentucky AG: Opioid settlement will help heal communities

Kentucky will receive $483 million from the settlements finalized with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three major distributors.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky's nearly half-billion-dollar share from nationwide settlements with four companies over their roles in the opioid addiction crisis will help heal communities that were "ravaged by this poison,” state Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Friday.

Kentucky will receive $483 million from the settlements finalized with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three major distributors, the Republican attorney general announced. 

The state’s legal fight dates back to when Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear was attorney general.

“While today marks the end of negotiations, it’s only the beginning of our healing,” Cameron said.

The Bluegrass State has the framework in place to distribute its share of the settlement money.

Under a measure enacted last year by Kentucky lawmakers, half the state's settlement proceeds will be distributed to local governments. The state will receive the other half.

“I look forward to seeing all the good that such funds will produce,” Republican state Rep. Danny Bentley, who sponsored last year's bipartisan-backed bill, said Friday.

Kentucky's Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission is tasked with overseeing the state's allotment, with plans to set up an application process so abatement programs can request funding.

“It’s time to put this epidemic behind us," Cameron said at a news conference. "It’s time to get real dollars in the door to heal our communities that have been ravaged by this poison.”

The attorney general said settlement money is expected to start flowing to the state and local governments in the second quarter of this year, which starts in April. Payments will be spread over 18 years, he said.

"This funding cannot come quickly enough, and we will continue to work closely with the legislature and local governments to ensure the funds are put toward programs that will stop the cycle of addiction and help heal our communities,” Cameron said.

To successfully “turn the tide on this crisis,” it will take a broad response with “each of us as partners,” said state Senate President Robert Stivers.

"Today is one more step toward our goal to save lives and help people seek the redemption they need to lead a better life,” Stivers said.

A state report last year showed that fatal drug overdoses in Kentucky surged by nearly 50% in 2020, easily eclipsing the state's prior record.

“These are not just numbers," Cameron said. “They are friends and neighbors and loved ones.”

Kentucky’s rising death toll was driven by opioid abuse. A key factor was the prevalence of fentanyl, the report said. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid increasingly added to other illicit drugs to boost potency.

Bentley said Friday that the historic settlements marked “the beginning of a new day for Kentucky — a day of hope and a day of healing.” He also focused on the human toll from opioid addiction, saying it has ”ravaged" his northeastern Kentucky district for decades.

The announcement Friday that the nationwide settlements were finalized will clear the way for $26 billion to flow to states and local governments across the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson announced the settlement plan last year, but the deal was contingent on getting participation from a critical mass of state and local governments.

Cameron signed on to the deal on behalf of the Bluegrass State in August, his office said.

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