Pritzker issues executive order for agency to distribute millions to Illinois communities hardest hit by opioid epidemic

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday issued an executive order for the creation of a statewide office to oversee the distribution of more than $700 million over two decades to cities and neighborhoods in Illinois most affected by opioid addiction.

Speaking at a news conference in Chicago on Friday, Pritzker said state and local government bodies, including the Illinois attorney general’s office, have filed thousands of lawsuits against various pharmaceutical companies over the years. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced in February that the expected share for Illinois was $760 million. The money would be paid out over 18 years.

“The opioid crisis will go down as one of the most disturbing examples of corporate greed and medical mismanagement in human history, giving way to an epidemic that has become more deadly almost every year of the last 40 years,” Pritzker said. “This has disproportionately impacted communities of color, which have experienced some of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the state.”

Illinois was one of several states to be part of a national $26 billion opioid settlement agreement with three of the country’s major pharmaceutical distributors: Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, and one manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson.

Raoul announced another agreement with opioid maker Allergan for as much as $2.37 billion. If finalized, the Allergan settlement, along with a settlement involving Teva Pharmaceuticals, could provide up to another $6.6 billion to communities nationwide, Raoul’s office said.

“Since taking office three and a half years ago, I’ve met with my colleagues from throughout the country on a whole host of issues, but there’s no issue that we’ve met collectively on more so than combating the opioid crisis,” Raoul said. “And we’ve done so on a bipartisan basis, and I’ve got to tell you, some of these meetings have been testy at times because this is a crisis that has truly devastated every corner in every state in our country.”

The Allergan logo appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Nov. 23, 2015. Opioid makers Allergan and Teva have agreed to pay $54 million in cash and overdose reversal drugs to settle a federal lawsuit brought by San Francisco, in an agreement announced on July 12, 2022. (Richard Drew / AP)

The opioid crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide, and in 2020, the number of opioid deaths in Illinois rose 33% over the previous year, according to Pritzker’s office.

The governor’s executive order calls for an advisory council, composed of individuals with an expertise in fighting opioid abuse, to steer funds to communities based on population, rates of opioid usage, overdose deaths and the amount of opioids shipped into each area of the state, Raoul said.

Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou noted that her department has “appropriation authority” over $108 million from the settlement. She said the majority of the funds will be used for prevention and recovery services, including treatment programs, education, and increased access to Narcan — a drug used to treat patients who experienced an overdose.

“As we know, many people who have developed an opioid-use disorder started by taking prescription medications, misused them to continue controlling their pain, shifting to taking stronger opioids such as heroin and now are exposed to illicit fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is far more powerful and lethal,” Hou said.

She said the council will meet in the fall before deciding where the money will begin to get distributed.

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via Chicago Tribune

July 29, 2022 at 04:45PM

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