The news of likely funding coming from the opioid litigation is a welcome development. This is a historic opportunity to meaningfully address the opioid crisis and invest in the long-term reforms necessary to transform the way our nation addresses addiction.
Ultimately, it will be up to state lawmakers to determine how to spend the money from the opioid litigation. And up to us to demand that money be spent wisely to prevent and treat addiction, and to hold our leaders accountable to avoid the diversion of funds as has happened in the wake of the tobacco settlement.
Since states settled their lawsuits against the major tobacco companies in 1998, they promised to use a significant portion of settlement funds, $246 billion over the first 25 years, to address tobacco prevention and cessation. Despite receiving huge sums from the settlement and collecting billions more in tobacco taxes, the states continue to shortchange tobacco prevention and cessation programs proven to save lives and reduce health care costs.
According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in Fiscal Year 2019, while the states will collect $27.3 billion from the settlement and taxes, they will spend just 2.4 percent of it – $655 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
Instead, states have used tobacco settlement dollars to close budget deficits, including giving up the right to future settlement funds for a higher short-term payment. States have also used the money to pay for salaries, roads, schools, literacy and agricultural programs and to fund tax cuts. Perhaps the most egregious example involves settlement funds spent on tobacco farming and production.
We can not let this happen with the opioid litigation funds. Millions of lives have been lost to and families destroyed by opioid addiction. We must hold our state leaders accountable to spend the litigation dollars in a meaningful and comprehensive way that will have a positive impact on families and communities across the country.
In collaboration with other leaders in the addiction field, we have prepared recommendations to provide clear guidance on how funds from the opioid litigation should be spent. The recommendations, which are evidence-based and rooted in a public health approach, focus on three key impact areas: enhancing public education; implementing evidence-based family and community-wide prevention programs; and modernizing the addiction treatment system. Investing in these recommendations will immediately reduce the devastation of the current opioid epidemic and create the framework for a more sensible and effective prevention, treatment and recovery infrastructure necessary to reduce the possibility of future devastating epidemics.
Sign the petition today to make your voice heard and demand that the opioid litigation dollars are spent on addiction resources and not on filling potholes!