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Opioids: Settlement funds must make a difference

Pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors continue to face justice after their role in fueling a substance abuse epidemic that continues to cripple our region. Earlier this week, attorneys announced another victory, as a lawsuit filed by cities and counties yielded a $400 million tentative settlement with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

“This is a monumental settlement for the state of West Virginia, and it’s been a battle that’s been waged by a lot of families, a lot of communities,” Wheeling attorney Bob Fitzsimmons said. “A lot of bad things have happened as a result of the opioid epidemic.”

Municipalities and county governments still have to sign on to the agreement, which would mean distribution of funds over 12 years. A representative for AmerisourceBergen said the settlement will get resources to areas affected by opioid misuse — but also will make sure health care facilities are able to access medications that patients and providers need.

Cardinal Health meanwhile said, “We remain committed to being a part of the solution to the opioid epidemic and believe this settlement agreement will help provide necessary relief to West Virginia communities in need.”

Of course, some of those West Virginians are struggling because of the exploitative actions of these firms in the first place; and it is a shame it seems the companies are spurred by the financial consequence of the lawsuit rather than the much greater price paid in lives claimed.

Still, as communities receive the funding they must not waver from the mission — using the influx of cash to help not only rebuild lives, but build hope. Today’s substance abuse epidemic has been strengthened by the economic and socio-cultural doldrums that have kept hope at bay and given a foothold to far more than prescription opioids. These new resources must be used to make a real difference rather than being spent for the sake of spending (and maybe lining a few pockets).

Municipal and county officials, you’ve won. Now what?

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