On December 21, 2022, K. Scott Wagner and Mallery s.c. helped Milwaukee County finalize a landmark settlement against opioid distributors that will provide $71 million to Milwaukee County in coming years. The agreement results from the multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of Ohio and a multiyear litigation process in which Mallery s.c. acted as the County’s local counsel. The goal of the lawsuit was to combat the opioid crisis ravaging communities throughout Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and nationwide. Now, Milwaukee County and numerous cities within the County who also joined the lawsuit will have considerable financial resources for the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.
The signing was attended by multiple lawmakers who spoke about the impact that opioids have had on the community. “In 2002, Milwaukee County recorded 83 deaths related to opioid abuse,” said Milwaukee County’s Corporation Counsel Margaret Daun, who spearheaded the County’s participation in the litigation. “This year, we are on track to set yet another devastating record of over 500 deaths.” Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson echoed similar sentiments. “The opioid epidemic has touched all of us,” she said at the settlement signing. “I’m sure we all know someone that has struggled with this disease, this addiction.”
The $71 million settlement is part of a larger $400+ million given to the state of Wisconsin. However, it is the largest recovery for any local government entity in the state. Based on the agreement, Milwaukee County will receive its portion of the settlement award over the next 18 years, though the County is pursuing options to accelerate the receipt of those funds. The settlement dollars may only be spent on opioid education, treatment, and prevention. The goal is to increase community awareness, treat addicted individuals, and prevent further deaths. “This settlement signals the first step towards accountability for all the parties responsible,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “Today, we’re unlocking desperately needed funds for Milwaukee County to specifically address destruction left by the opioid crisis.”
What the Opioid Settlement Will Cover
According to Corporation Counsel Daun and County Executive Crowley, the funds from the opioid lawsuit may only be spent on the “mitigation and abatement” of opioid addiction. The approved uses of funds from the settlement are listed in a document released by Daun, which includes strategies such as:
- FDA-approved overdose combating drugs. This expands the availability of drugs that reverse opioid overdoses for uninsured/underinsured individuals, such as Nolaxone. Families, schools, community groups, and first responders also have additional access to overdose reversal training.
- Medication assisted treatment. For those who have Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), this provides coverage for treatment and recovery support services. This includes inpatient or outpatient services, counseling, recovery housing, and more.
- Mental health treatment. The opioid settlement also helps fund peer support services, recovery coaches, and therapy for those suffering from addiction. This treatment extends to incarcerated individuals and pregnant women.
- Wrap-around services for recovering individuals. With this settlement, Milwaukee County can fund services for recovering addicts to minimize the risk of relapse. This includes things like housing, transportation, job training/placement, and childcare.
- Prevention and public education programs. To help prevent individuals from succumbing to opioid addiction, the settlement will fund media campaigns, drug prevention groups, drug disposal, and non-profit community support systems.
- Extended medical provider education. For medical providers, the funds will help create new education programs on treatment alternatives that don’t require opioids. By using evidence-based guidelines, medical providers can prevent over-prescribing.
These strategies will empower Milwaukee County to provide a more thorough treatment process for opioid addicted individuals, prioritize treatment and prevention of opioid addiction, and funnel more resources to communities and programs already in existence to treat opioid overdoses in multiple settings.
When Will Milwaukee Receive the Funds?
Based on the current opioid litigation status of other jurisdictions, Milwaukee County expects to receive the first round of funding soon. The current timeline suggests a payment in the first or second quarter of 2022.
Milwaukee County’s Fight Continues
This settlement only resolves Milwaukee County’s claims against opioid distributors. Remaining in the Ohio multidistrict litigation are opioid manufacturers and pharmacies, such as Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS. In addition, the County has lawsuits pending against the Sackler family, who owned and controlled Purdue Pharmaceuticals, who architected the sales approach that intentionally led to addiction and death nationwide, as well as McKinsey & Co., who was Pudue Pharmaceuticals right-hand consultant, assisting in its intentional efforts to “turbocharge” sales of high-dosage (and most-addictive) opioids.
Our Commitment to the Milwaukee Community
At Mallery s.c., we seek to provide our clients and our community with the resources they need to succeed. Milwaukee County now has substantial funds to get those struggling with opioids the help they need. We’d like to thank Milwaukee County leaders for their commitment to the citizens of our great community and their wellbeing.
If you need any assistance from a firm with a wide range of legal services, please contact Mallery s.c. today. We offer personalized, trusted counsel for every client and advocate for their best interests.