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Lawmakers propose bill to place limits on opioid settlements.

Plus: Big Meat is a big problem.


Opioid Crisis: Lawmakers Take Action


The opioid crisis has impacted millions of American lives, but for a little bit there, opioid settlement money ($50 billion worth) provided a small glimmer of hope that we could start turning things around. Well, things are not exactly off to a strong start. 

In a significant move to address the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States, members of Congress have taken a step forward to help ensure billions in opioid settlements are used effectively and for their intended purpose (READ MORE).

Over 100,000 Americans have succumbed to overdoses annually in recent years. The numbers are staggering, and we need to start doing something. 

Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) have introduced a bill that seeks to legally define the appropriate uses for these settlement funds, ensuring they directly aid those most affected by the crisis. This legislation, the Opioid Settlement Accountability Act, comes at a crucial time as states and local governments have started receiving settlement money from drugmakers and pharmaceutical distributors held responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic.

The bill aims to prevent the misuse of these funds, which, in some cases, have been diverted to unrelated budgetary expenses rather than addiction treatment and prevention. The proposed law would mandate that at least 85% of the settlement payouts be allocated to combat the opioid crisis, with a focus on treatment, prevention, education, and law enforcement.

85%? Why not 100%? Why doesn’t ALL the settlement money go toward treatment, prevention, education, and enforcement? Anything short of 100% seems like a mismanagement of funds. I guess we should take whatever we can get. 

Unfortunately, the path to enacting this legislation is fraught with challenges, especially given the current political climate and a packed congressional agenda. However, the need for such oversight is underscored by instances where settlement money has already been spent questionably. There have been cases where funds have been used to purchase law enforcement tools and jail equipment that may not directly address the addiction crisis.

Kaptur and Hinson’s bill is inspired by the lessons learned from the 1990s tobacco settlements. Back then, a large portion of the funds intended for smoking prevention and cessation ended up being used for other state needs. The hope is we won’t see history repeat itself this time around, especially since the stakes are so much higher with opioids than it was with tobacco. 

Despite the well-intentioned nature of the bill, critics argue that it lacks the necessary enforcement mechanisms. Without clear penalties or a designated entity to monitor compliance, there are concerns that the legislation may not effectively ensure the funds are used as intended.

This issue is further complicated by the lack of transparency in how these funds are spent. While some states have adopted their own standards for reporting and utilizing the settlement money, many others offer little insight into the allocation of these funds. The current bill does not address this lack of transparency, making it an incomplete solution to a big problem. 

The key takeaway? The ongoing opioid crisis has devastated countless lives and communities across the nation. If we are ever going to get out of this mess, we are going to need effective and targeted use of these settlement funds. Otherwise, we don’t stand a chance. This money can’t just be a blank check for state and local governments. There have to be guardrails. The hope is that the proposed bill does just that.


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