Gov. Whitmer signs bills aimed at combatting the opioid crisis

Michigan to receive nearly $800M in settlement funds

JUN 1, 2022

GRAHAM JAEHNIG
Staff Writer

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on May 19 signed a bipartisan package of legislation that will invest $800 million in treatment, prevention, mental health and other abatement efforts in response to the opioid crisis, according to a release from her office.

Michigan is set to receive nearly $800 million in opioid settlement payments over the next 18 years from major pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, along with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, said Senate Bill 994 sponsor, state Sen. Mark Huizenga, R-Holland.

The national agreement is the result of years of negotiations to resolve more than 4,000 claims of alleged misuse and abuse of opioid products and is the second largest multistate agreement in U.S. history, second only to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, Huizenga said.

Senate bills 993, 994 and 995 together manage the disbursement of settlement funds as a result of opioid-related lawsuits, and create the Opioid Advisory Commission to advance policy to prevent, treat and support those with opioid use disorder.

“The opioid crisis touches families across our state, which is why it’s so crucial to ensure that (Michigan residents) facing substance use issues have the support and resources they need to get better,” said Whitmer. “The legislation I signed today will be instrumental in preventing more deaths and will provide Michigan families impacted by the devastating opioid epidemic with some semblance of relief. These funds will bring millions of dollars to support our neighbors, family and friends in treatment and recovery. I will continue to work with anyone who wants to help those who are struggling.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 104,000 people nationwide died from drug overdoses between September 2020 and September 2021 — a 15.9% increase from the previous 12-month period. In Michigan, 2,933 people died during the same 12-month period — a 7% increase.

The American Medical Association reported on May 12 that the nation’s drug overdose epidemic continues to change and become worse.

The epidemic affects every state and now is driven by illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, methamphetamine and cocaine, often in combination or in adulterated forms.

The Houghton County 2020-2025 Hazard Mitigation Plan states that Michigan has the 14th highest overdose death rate in the country. In 2017, there were 2,686 drug overdose deaths in Michigan and was 12.1% higher than drug overdose deaths in 2016. Deaths due to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and tramadol, increased by 48.5% from 2016 to 2017.

Most Michigan counties are under-equipped to address the needs of people who have an opioid addiction and effects from this drug epidemic. This includes a lack of nearby drug treatment programs, medication-based treatment services and transportation capability to get people who want help the necessary services they need.

“Time is not on our side when it comes to Michigan’s opioid epidemic,” said Attorney General Dana Nessel, “so I applaud the bipartisan support that got these bills across the finish line and to Gov. Whitmer’s desk. I have spent the past couple of months visiting communities and organizations around Michigan to learn more about the work being done to prevent and treat opioid use disorder, and while local governments will receive direct payments, the timely deployment of state settlement dollars is crucial in the fight against opioids in our communities. This puts us a step closer to getting the proper infrastructure in place to ensure settlement dollars can be used quickly and save as many lives as possible.”

Senate Bill 993 was sponsored by Sen. Michael MacDonald, R- Macomb, and creates the Michigan Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund in the Department of the Treasury to receive dollars from the national opioid settlement or any future opioid case. It funds abatement practices and support for opioid use disorder and substance use disorder or mental health treatment and related efforts.

“I am happy the governor signed my legislation,” said MacDonald, “as part of a bipartisan effort to allow for the effective and secure administration of Michigan’s opioid settlement funds and help support opioid-related education, prevention and treatment throughout our state. The opioid epidemic continues to have a devastating impact on Michigan families and communities — destroying lives and killing thousands of people every year. It is going to be a long, tough fight to defeat opioid addiction, but it’s one we must win.”

“The opioid epidemic has been, and continues to be, devastating,” said Sen. Betty Jean Alexander, D-Detroit. “While no amount of money from these lawsuits and settlements can bring back a lost loved one, it may help provide the funds needed to expand our efforts in combatting it. The simple fact is, there is not enough support out there to help the thousands of people affected by opioid use disorder and opioid addiction. Senate Bill 995 being signed into law is essential not only to get all the money due to the state but is also a symbolic step forward by the Legislature to recognize and actively address the severity of this widespread crisis.”

Senate Bill 994, sponsored by uizenga, creates the Opioid Advisory Commission, which would review initiatives related to education, prevention, treatment, and services for individuals and families affected by substance abuse disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions.

Senate Bill 995, sponsored by Sen. Betty Jean Alexander, D-Detroit, creates a threshold for certain civil actions related to opioids. Enacting the bill would allow the state and local governments that have settled to receive full incentives under the settlement payment plans.

“As a lead House sponsor on the opioid settlement package,” said state Rep. Christine Morse, D- Texas Township. “It was an honor to work with Gov. Whitmer, Attorney General Nessel and my colleagues in the House and Senate to bring unprecedented resources for opioid recovery and healing to our state.”