ANOTHER OPINION: Funds to pave the way for healing from opioid damage | Opinion
The opioid settlements that Native American tribes struck with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and the nation’s three largest drug distribution companies are worth more than half a billion dollars; the $590 million will go a long way toward repairing the damage the opioid epidemic has done to Native Americans.
Opioid sales that have created an economic boom for drug manufacturers and distributors have landed like a bombshell on many communities. Tribes have been hit hard by the over-prescription of opioids and the ease of access to opioids sold on the street. The death toll was devastating. A study cited in the settlement found that Native Americans experienced the highest per capita opioid overdose rate of any group in the country.
THE REGULATION CAN FUND services to help those recovering from addiction, to heal emotional, physical and financial damage, and to help families broken by loss and trauma.
All federally recognized tribes in the United States will be able to participate in settlements, even if they have not filed opioid lawsuits. More than 400 tribes and intertribal organizations representing approximately 80% of tribal citizens have filed opioid lawsuits.
Under the deal, each tribe could decide whether or not to participate, but would be required to use the money to address the opioid epidemic. The agreement would go into effect when 95% of tribes with lawsuits against the companies agree to the settlement, said Tara Sutton, an attorney whose firm represents 28 tribes.
Settlements are also underway between the tribes and other companies involved in opioids.
Of course, a lawsuit would provide satisfaction in a way that a settlement cannot and would require greater disclosure of the actions and communications within these companies as the crisis erupted and they reaped the money. But help is needed now; too many people are suffering and too many people are dying.
TRIBES CAN USE these funds to save lives, to begin to mend the torn fabric of members’ families and communities.
Cherokee Nation Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the “tribal settlement against Johnson and Johnson includes funding to address the opioid crisis on the Cherokee Nation reservation — a crisis that has significantly affected disproportionately our Cherokee people. We will use these funds to expand our mental health treatment and related services so that our citizens can begin to recover.
There will be more to come; other lawsuits are pending. Tribal settlements are part of approximately $40 billion in settlements, penalties and fines incurred by companies so far due to their role in opioids.
A lot of damage has been done by prescription drugs like OxyContin and street drugs like heroin and fentanyl; this regulation offers the opportunity to repair some of it.
The Joplin Globe, Joplin, Missouri