State and local governments are using opioid settlement funds to pay for law enforcement vehicles, body scanners and other equipment, KFF Health News reports.
Directing the funds to police has triggered difficult questions about what the money was meant for and whether such spending helps save lives, the article notes. At least 85% of funds must be spent on “opioid remediation,” making paving roads or building schools out of the question. But some argue a new cruiser could help officers reach the scene of an overdose, making it a grayer area.
Many experts across the criminal justice and addiction treatment fields agree that settlement funds would be better spent increasing access to medications for opioid use disorder, which is often missing from substance use disorder treatment in prisons and jails.
This summer, more than 200 researchers and clinicians issued a call to action to government officials in charge of opioid settlement funds. They wrote, “More policing is not the answer to the overdose crisis.” They said the funds should be used for community-based programs for people who use drugs; medications for addiction treatment; and housing-first programs. Funds should not be used for the carceral system, including law enforcement, drug courts and jails and prisons; abstinence-only treatment; or the family regulation system, they wrote.