La Crosse County may get $3.5 million from multi-state opioid settlement

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — About $3.5 million may be coming to La Crosse County to address the opioid crisis. The La Crosse County Board agreed Wednesday to enter a multi-state settlement with three opioid distributors and one manufacturer.

The distributors include McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. The manufacturer is Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The suit alleges that the burden of the opioid crisis falls on those entities.

“A few in particular have done in promoting opiate usage, and you know, quite frankly that did drive a lot of our initial opiate addiction issues,” said Dr. Chris Eberlein, a co-chair of the Alliance to Heal.

The opioid crisis has significantly affected La Crosse County. La Crosse ranks in the top third of Wisconsin counties for opioid-related overdose deaths, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“It’s been a real struggle. It’s affected a lot of members in our community and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” Eberlein said. “It’s costly to treat patients with opiate use disorder—they require a lot of individual counseling and care.”

Without funding, Eberlein said it’s been hard to address these concerns, especially in recent years.

“But now especially, we’re really seeing the impact of the pandemic on mental health and opiate use disorder,” Eberlein said.

La Crosse is not alone.

“The opioid epidemic has first of all already taken a devastating toll on so many families in Wisconsin, and continues to do so,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.

If the settlement is approved, Megan DeVore of the La Crosse County corporation counsel said in an email that the state of Wisconsin will get over $402 million over time. Just over $4.6 million would go to La Crosse County, which would end up totaling almost $3.5 million after attorney’s fees.

DeVore said that the financial terms of the agreement say that distributors would pay a maximum of $21 billion over 18 years nationally, while the manufacturer would pay a maximum of $5 billion over 9 years.

These funds could go to resources for the county in its fight against the epidemic.

“Resources. Resources to fund things like treatment efforts, resources to fund diversion programs, to fund law enforcement efforts. And resources to fund prevention efforts,” Kaul said.

Counties and cities from the settlement’s participating states are able to opt in through the end of this year.

If the settlement goes through, Kaul said the states would not see that money until some time next year.

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