Opioid settlement cash to be in local hands within a week

By: - December 2, 2022 7:00 am
settlement money funds dollars bills

The package includes the dozen annual appropriations bills that fund everything from the Pentagon to national parks to the Agriculture Department. (Getty Images)

Months after Indiana’s attorney general said he’d send about 660 local governments their shares of the state’s $507 million  opioid crisis settlement with drug manufacturers and distributers, none have received the money.

But the state agencies coordinating the effort now say the cash will go out within a week.

“Representatives from the [Attorney General’s] Office, Auditor’s Office, and State Budget Agency met [Wednesday] morning, and we all agreed that the distribution of opioid settlement funds is now on track to occur before the end of next week,” State Budget Director Zachary Jackson wrote in a Thursday email to the Capital Chronicle.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (Photo from National Association of Attorneys General)

Attorney General Todd Rokita first said in February 2022 that manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal and McKesson would begin sending money to a national administrator in early April. Indiana’s settlement is part of a $26 billion national one.

“Money will start flowing to state and local governments in the second quarter of 2022,” or between April and June, Rokita said at the time. His office later said it expected payments to go out in the fall.

But months after the initial distribution timeline, none of those hundreds of Hoosier cities, towns or counties have gotten any money, the Indianapolis Star reported this week.

Where it stands

Office of Management and Budget Director Cris Johnston, whose agency includes the State Budget Agency, said administrators were working to comply with the settlement requirements and a state law specific to the funds, House Enrolled Act 1193.

“The settlement governing documents and applicable state laws have stringent standards for the administration of these funds,” he wrote to the Capital Chronicle.

The Budget Agency will soon transfer the funds to Rokita’s office, which will distribute them to local governments.

Rokita’s office said a 2017 law, which gave the State Budget Agency initial control over settlement payouts, “complicated” its timeline. Previously, the Attorney General’s Office oversaw the entire distribution process.

“Given the fact that the payout from this settlement will occur over the next 17 years and that there is more litigation anticipated on various issues presently and in the future, it is likely that the 2017 law change will continue to create similar problems,” an office spokesperson said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle. “That certainly does not change the great work we did on this historic settlement or the rest of the work we are doing in fighting for Hoosier’s interests on these multi-state issues.”

Payments this year will total an estimated $254 million, though about $12 million will go to attorney’s fees, according to Rokita’s office.

Indiana and its local governments are splitting the settlement money 50-50. The localities must use about 70% of their funds on opioid abatement and can spend the other 30%  as they wish.


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Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie joins the Indiana Capital Chronicle after covering city government and urban affairs for the Indianapolis Business Journal for more than a year. She graduated from Northwestern University in March 2021, and has reported for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and student publications in Evanston, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and Doha, Qatar.