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Use of Opioid Settlement Funds Spark Criticism

A report by USA Today highlighted controversy surrounding government use of the billions of dollars provided through opioid settlements. These monies were intended to aid in the development and expansion of treatment and prevention programs, but as the article discusses, there are several cases in which these funds were instead allocated to unrelated budget expenditures such as salaries. In some instances, such as New York State, opioid settlement funds are being used to enable state lawmakers to reallocate their usual addiction services spending, effectively allowing the state to use the settlement money to fund programs instead of – not in addition to – usual spending. Though this use of funds is not strictly prohibited, the terms of the settlement money indicate that states must use at least 85% of the monies on addressing the opioid crisis. However, how those funds are used and fit within that 85% requirement are up to interpretation.

Community stakeholders and those working in recovery services have expressed concerns with how settlement funds have been allocated. For example, Blair County, PA allocated more than $300,000 to a decades-old drug court program sparking criticism that the county is putting money into existing insufficient programs rather than using the funds to develop more effective treatments for opioid use. Additionally, many have expressed concerns that governments are using the opioid settlement funds as a means of foregoing use of other sources of financial support, such as federal grants, as opposed to continuing use of grants in addition to settlement funds. Despite the challenges and criticisms surrounding the use of settlement monies, government officials report that these funds are helping to support crucial programs related to the opioid crisis such as treatment transportation services, access to peer support specialists, and development of family support groups.

The full article can be accessed here: Opioid settlements used for existing programs, salaries not new ones (usatoday.com)

Pattani, A. (2024, April 15). Opioid settlement cash being used for existing programs and salaries, sparking complaints. USA Today.