Opioid lawsuit settlement approved by City of Gonzales, Ascension

On July 19, 2018 Ascension’s Parish Council approved a contract for Leger & Shaw to represent local interests against three mega-distributors of opioids and a manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson.  One of 3,000 communities in 21 participating states, Ascension’s governing authority took up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Executive Session on November 4, with nothing said upon reconvening in open session (so much for transparency).  But the City of Gonzales provided the MOU at its meeting on Monday which outlined participation in the $26 billion settlement.

In July a with “global settlement agreement was announced between the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (representing those 3,000 communities) against Johnson & Johnson and the “Big Three” drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.

In a July 21 press release the parties wrote:

Decades of opioid manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers choosing to put profits ahead of health and safety is what caused and perpetuated this public health crisis. Taxpayers and communities were forced to bear the costs of the crisis, which has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and drained billions from local economies. It is going to take a multifaceted approach over decades to fully recover. But this settlement is a much-needed start on that long road to recovery.”

Settlement terms included creation of a “clearinghouse through which the Big Three will be required to account not only for their own shipments, but also the shipments of the other distributors, in order to detect, stop, and report suspicious orders. In addition, Johnson & Johnson and all of its subsidiaries have agreed to a 10-year prohibition on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of their opioid products.”

Being paid out over years, it is well-nigh impossible to resolve any particular dollar amount due to any particular state much less participating municipality.  What it means for the City of Gonzales and Ascension Parish, through which the city would receive any benefit, is not so easy to determine.  Ascension’s claim will be administered through the State of Louisiana which will establish a five-member Taskforce for that purpose.  (Administration fees are capped at 3%).

Ascension is in line for 2.27% of Louisiana’s total benefit, 13th most out of 64 parishes.

In a form letter to its clients Leger & Shaw concluded, “It is not possible to provide a precise amount of recovery for each subdivision under the proposed settlements because of the variables that factor into how much each state will receive, but a range of local allocations will be determined as more information is finalized.”

Taskforce appointments, to three-year terms, will be made by:

  • Louisiana Municipal Association
  • Police Jury Association
  • Louisiana Sheriff’s Association
  • Secretary-Louisiana Department of Health
  • The Governor

20% of any amounts received will go to the local sheriff, with the remainder “going to the benefit of the other Local Governments” calculated “by the Negotiation Class Metrics or other metrics agreed upon…The Qualified Parish’s share, including the Municipalities within that Parish, will be paid to the Qualified Parish and expended for Approved Purposes.”

Those purposes are enumerated in a document entitled, Opioid Abatement Strategies:

TREATMENT

  • Treat Opioid Use Disorder
  • Support People in Treatment and Recovery
  • Connect People Who Need Help to the Help They Need
  • Address the Needs of Criminal-Justice-Involved Persons
  • Address the Needs of Pregnant or Parenting Women and Their Families, Including Babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

PREVENTION

  • Prevent Over-Prescribing and Ensure Appropriate Prescribing and Dispensing of Opioids
  • Prevent Misuse of Opioids
  • Prevent Overdose Deaths and Other Harms

OTHER STRATEGIES

  • First Responders (includes support of Law Enforcement expenditures on education and first response practices)
  • Leadership, Planning and Coordination
  • Training
  • Research

 

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