Jefferson County joins opioid settlement

Deal with Johnson & Johnson to bring more than $200,000

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is set to receive more than $200,000 for opioid abatement later this year, the result of a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for the company’s role in the nation’s opioid epidemic.

In January, the state settled with Johnson & Johnson for $149.5 million, $123.3 million of which will be spent on opioid abatement programs statewide. The exact amount counties and cities will receive depends on how many jurisdictions end up joining the settlement by the May 11 deadline.

According to the state Attorney General’s Office, 54 of the 130 eligible jurisdictions have signed onto the settlement. Jefferson County, Clallam County and the City of Port Angeles are all eligible to join, although none had yet, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

On Monday, the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners unanimously approved a motion for the county to join the settlement.

Lawyers for Keller Rohrback — the Seattle lawfirm representing several Washington jurisdictions, including Jefferson County — estimate the county’s share of the settlement funds will be a minimum of $231,544 with an estimated actual payment of $243,258.

“This is, I think, the fourth big opioid settlement that we’ve been involved with,” said Philip Hunsucker, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney.

Per the county’s agreement with the state on the sharing of opioid settlement funds, money from the litigation will be distributed by the Port Orchard-based Salish Behavioral Health Administrative Services Organization for a range of programs to help local governments deal with the effects of the opioid crisis.

Funds from Johnson & Johnson will be allocated in a one-time payment as opposed to the annual payment agreed to as part of other opioid settlements.

Jefferson County is set to receive more than $883,000 over 14 years from a settlement with CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Teva and Allergan, and more than $896,000 over 15 years from a settlement with McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation. Both cases settled in 2022.

There are a range of activities the funding can be used for that qualify as opioid abatement, including medically assisted treatment programs and the overdose reversal drug naloxone, but also prevention programs, data collection, training and research.

Hunsucker said Monday many of the lawyers who worked on the national opioid litigation were also involved in past lawsuits against tobacco companies, and funds from those lawsuits were not spent on tobacco abatement programs.

Commissioners said they should be strategic in how this settlement money is used, and they suggested items like housing and therapeutic courts as potential recipients.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsulanews.us.

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