© 2023 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

NY counties receive their first opioid settlement payouts


Last year, New York joined a legal settlement with three distributors of prescription opioid pills: McKesson, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation. This week, New York counties received the first installment of the settlement money.

New York’s share of the settlement is $1.1 billion, which will be paid out in installments over the next 18 years.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said the money must be used to treat and prevent opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

“What I hear, as I traveled all throughout the state of New York, what I heard over and over again, was a need for more treatment beds, particularly in upstate New York,” James said.

James also underscored the need for overdose reversing drugs, like Naloxone.

The central New York region will receive $6.3 million in settlement funds in 2022. Onondaga County is set to see $3.7 million of that. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said opioid overdoses have increased in the county in recent years, and the pandemic played a big role in that.

"We were forced to shut down in-person activities related to treatment, and at the time there were enhanced unemployment benefits where some of our brothers and sisters who are facing addiction had more resources than what they normally had," McMahon said. "And because of that, we've seen what has happened. We've seen more people relapse, we've seen the loss of life. And now we have resources."

The county reported Tuesday that there were 186 fatal opioid overdoses in 2021, a 19% increase over the previous year.

Within the Southern Tier, Chemung and Broome Counties have been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis. The rate of opioid-related deaths and hospitalizations in those counties is significantly higher than the state average. They will receive a slightly larger share of the settlement money.

The Southern Tier region will receive about $4.8 million from the settlement in 2022. The initial payout on Tuesday totaled about $759,000 between Broome, Tioga, Schuyler, Stueben, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, and Tompkins counties.

Some advocates have criticized the settlement, claiming the money won’t be enough to build up New York’s ailing mental health and addiction treatment programs.

James said there is more money coming soon. New York is set to receive settlement funds from five other opioid distributors and manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharmaceuticals.