The Potluck

Walz signs bill funneling $300 million from settlement into state opiate response fund

By: - May 12, 2022 10:42 am

Photo courtesy of Minnesota History Center.

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday signed a bill funneling $300 million from a multi-state settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors into the state’s opioid response fund. 

Through the fund, the settlement money will be used for opioid addiction and overdose education, prevention, treatment and recovery efforts across the state. The news comes as the federal Centers for Disease Control released preliminary data showing drug overdose deaths in Minnesota and the United States overall reached a record high in 2021.

“The faster we can get these resources into the hands of our communities, the better,” Walz said in a news release. “This legislation allows us to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the devastation they’ve caused for families across the state.”

Last year, 1,343 Minnesotans died of drug overdoses, according to the CDC — a 26% increase from 2020, when the state recorded 1,065 overdose deaths. Drug overdoses have surged nationwide during the pandemic as people struggle with isolation, financial strain and other stressors.

The pandemic has changed school and in-person diversions that may help people in recovery, while adding financial and health-related stress, which can be triggers for people suffering from addiction.

Minnesota received $300 million through a settlement between 46 states and four companies — pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson — over a flurry of lawsuits that their business dealings contributed to the opioid epidemic. The companies paid a total of $26 billion in the agreement.

The bill Walz signed Wednesday puts the money in the state’s Opiate Epidemic Response fund, which was created through a 2019 law that raises money for opioid addiction prevention and treatment through fees on prescribers, drug manufacturers and distributors.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.