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NY AG says $4.5 billion settlement with Sackler family justified to get opioid treatment funding

New York Attorney General Letitia James makes an announcement in Syracuse on Tuesday.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday that $37 million is coming to central New York, from settlements reached with opioid drug manufacturers and distributors. All of the funding will go towards opioid treatment and prevention. A controversial settlement with the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma and makers of OxyContin, could bring in even more money.

A federal judge approved a bankruptcy settlement last month that will dissolve Purdue Pharma and requires the Sackler family to pay more than $4 billion. The deal shields the family from any opioid-related liability linked to Purdue Pharma. They take no personal responsibility and get to keep most of their fortune. The U.S. Justice Department and some states are appealing the ruling, saying it will unfairly deny the rights of people and governments to sue the Sacklers.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said no settlement is perfect and this one was two years in the making.

“At the end of the day, it was getting resources to counties that were struggling each and every day,” James said. “As you see the numbers, there’s more overdoses and individuals were hurting and organizations needed these resources. So, I thought it best to settle at the $4.5 billion number.”

James says the settlement doesn’t prevent criminal prosecution of the Sacklers.

The funding being awarded to central New York comes from other settlements the AG’s office has made. Onondaga County will get more than $9 million. The city of Syracuse will get more than $3 million. There were 156 opioid-related deaths in Onondaga County last year, the highest in a decade, and this year could be worse.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.