Clarke County won’t realize a lot out of first opioid settlement

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There was good news and bad news from local attorney Billy Philippi for the Clarke County Commission at their meeting Tuesday. The good news is that a settlement has been reached with one of the opioid drug manufacturers the county sued with other counties and municipalities to recover funds incurred from the abuse of opioids. The bad news is the county’s share isn’t that much.

Phillippi, with the Gilmore Law Office, handling the litigation for the county, reminded commissioners that Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall got involved in the case on behalf of the state. That may have helped the plaintiffs’ case but at the same time the state will receive the lion’s share of any monies received.

Several opioid manufacturers and distributors have been sued. Endo, one of the smaller manufacturers, opted to settle for $25 million. That sounds like a lot but the state will get 60 percent, or $15 million, leaving $10 million to be divided among the participating counties and municipalities. The $10 million is not divided equally but takes into account deaths, opioid usage and other factors. Clarke County will end up getting $31,849 but expenses will decrease that amount to $20,000 to $22,000.

Phillippi reminded commissioners that Endo is one of the smaller companies being sued. Other settlements, or jury verdicts, if cases go to trial, would likely be larger, netting the county more money.

However, another issue is that the funds are earmarked as to usage. The money can be spent for counseling and health related needs and for first responders and law enforcement who may have encountered opioidrelated issues in the course of their work.

Commissioners were clearly frustrated by the small amount received as well as the limitations on how it can be spent. Commissioner Jackie Ray Rush said not only is the amount small but the county’s hands are tied on how it can be spent. Commission Chairman Rhondel Rhone agreed, noting that so much of the expenses incurred related to opioid issues came from General Fund monies. He had hoped those dollars could be replaced but they won’t be.

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