Morgan County receives first payment from opioid lawsuit settlements

Attorney General and State Auditor advise local governments about use of funds

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County officials have received $482,800 from the settlement of several lawsuits against pharmacies and drug distributors for their role in the opioid crises that has crippled communities across West Virginia.

Commissioners do not yet know how much they will receive in total from the lawsuits.

Late last year, commissioners set up a designated bank account for those funds, as required under their involvement in the drug lawsuit.

According to settlement formulas agreed upon during the mass litigation, the county could directly receive .644% of the settlement funds set aside for local governments. The Town of Bath is set to receive .0062% of those funds and the Town of Paw Paw will get .0017% of the funds.

The Associated Press reports these settlements so far between pharmacies and distributors and the state of West Virginia:

–Walgreens, $83 million

–Walmart, $65,070,000

— CVS, $82.5 million

–Kroger, $68 million

–Rite Aid, $30 million

That list totals $328,570,000 in legal settlements or judgments.

There are also settlements from Johnson and Johnson, Teva and Allergan.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said recently the total settlement awards add up to more than $940 million.

Under the negotiated framework for distributing these funds over more than a decade, the state created the West Virginia First Foundation – a private non-profit group  that will govern how the majority of the money will be distributed.

West Virginia First Foundation will receive 72.5% of each settlement or judgment.

Local governments will receive 24.5% of each settlement, according to an agreed formula, and 3% of each settlement will be held in escrow by the state.

Gov. Jim Justice has appointed members to the board of directors for the West Virginia First Foundation. The group is made up of representatives from each region of the state, in order to make funding decisions that are regionally appropriate.

West  Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is partnering with the state Auditor’s Office to make sure opioid settlement money “will be and is being used for its intended purposes as outlined in the West Virginia First Memorandum of Understanding.”

The Attorney General and Auditor are sending letters to the state’s cities and counties to provide information and guidance as they begin to receive and plan to spend their share of the opioid settlement money.

“This is another layer in the checks and balances to make sure the money from settlements are used in the best possible way, to attack the opioid scourge head-on,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “I am pleased to partner with the State Auditor’s Office to bring its proven track record of transparency, accountability, and service to local governments to amplify the collaborative effort between the Attorney General’s Office and local governments around the state.”

A Memorandum of Understanding created the first plan of action to address the opioid crisis– it details the allocation method for any settlement funds or judgments received as a result of the various lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and other parties in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Local governments have “broad discretion to decide which approved uses are best to spend their share of the settlement money” said Morrisey.

A 44-page document includes directives on the “Core Strategies” that should be followed as local governments and the foundation decided what to spend the settlement funds on.

Priorities are given to increasing the use of Naloxone or other drugs to reverse overdoses, medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder, interventions for pregnant and postpartum women, expansion of treatment for babies born with drug dependency, expansion of services to connect those with substance use disorder to recovery and life services, treatment for those who are incarcerated, and prevention programs for youth and the general population, data collection and research into tools to meet the opioid crisis.

The full document can be found on the Attorney General’s website.

Using the current $940 million estimate from the Attorney General’s office, the 24.5% that will go to local governments equals $230.3 million. Morgan County’s portion of that figure – the .644% — would bring $1,483,132 to the county over the life of the settlement. The Town of Bath could see $14,278 and Paw Paw could receive $3,915.

Nearby Panhandle counties and cities are looking at larger portions — Jefferson County is to receive 1.5882% and Berkeley County will see 3.2534%. The City of Martinsburg will be allocated 3.2084% of the government funds.

The three highest government allocations will go to the City of Charleston (6.102%), the City of Huntington (5.977%) and Raleigh County (5.024%).

A handful of small towns will receive the minimum allocation of .0001%.