Idaho one step closer to receiving millions in opioid settlement funds

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced Thursday that Idaho expects to receive approximately $21.6 million as part of a proposed resolution of a multistate lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family over their role in the opioid epidemic.

The proposal was submitted to federal bankruptcy court by a mediator on Wednesday night following years of litigation by 24 states and the District of Columbia against the Sacklers. Idaho is one of 15 states that has accepted the bankruptcy terms proposed by the mediator; Nine other states and the District of Columbia continue to oppose the deal. Read more at NPR.

Idaho’s share is part of a $4.3 billion proposed settlement with Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers. The deal would also make public more than 10 million documents related to the family and the opioid crisis, and shields the Sacklers from future opioid-related lawsuits, according to NPR.

Deputy Attorney General Brett DeLange said there are still several steps until Idaho sees the money, including an Aug. 9 confirmation hearing, and the subsequent order from the bankruptcy court judge. But Wednesday night’s filing brings Idaho closer to receiving financial resources to fight opioid addiction in communities across the state.

“Is this going to solve the problem of the opioid crisis in Idaho? No. Is this going to address the harm that has been experienced by Idahoans? No. I suppose in most settlements, very few people are happy and walk away pleased,” DeLange said. “Our job, though, is to settle litigation and try to settle on the best terms possible vis-à-vis continuing to litigate and the prospects and risks involved.”

“We think this is a settlement Idaho should accept and be a part of. We’re pleased in that sense,” he added. “It doesn’t mean that everything about it is great and wonderful. The Sacklers still have billions. There’s still a lot of harm and suffering going on related to the opioid crisis.”

If a judge signs off on the proposal, Idaho will receive its share of the settlement over nine years. The money will go into the Opioid Settlement Fund, established by House Bill 315 during the 2021 Legislature. The fund will direct money received from opioid-related settlements to opioid recovery and prevention efforts. The Behavioral Health Council will make recommendations to the joint budget committee on how to spend the money, and the legislature will have final say on appropriations from the fund.

According to the Idaho Office on Drug Policy, the state recorded 591 overdose deaths in Idaho between 2015-2019 — a number, ODP says, that is almost certainly an underestimate, as toxicology tests aren’t uniform, nor are they always reliable. Early data from 2020 suggests an additional 284 Idahoans had died of overdoses by October of last year.

“This is a crisis that impacted Idahoans everywhere,” DeLange said. “In terms of addiction, abuse, death, overdose, we have it all here in our state. You can put a lot of responsibility on the Sacklers and Purdue.”

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