House and Senate approve Herring’s bill to fund opioid treatment and recovery

The Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia Senate have both passed legislation from Attorney General Mark R. Herring and sponsors Senator George Barker (SB1469) and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (HB2322) to direct funds secured through Attorney General Herring’s ongoing lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors toward opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery, ensuring that the most money possible goes to actually address the opioid crisis.

If enacted into law, this proposal would make Virginia one of the first states in the nation to have a legislatively enacted framework for directing funds from opioid litigation, like the $13 million Attorney General Herring recently secured through a settlement with McKinsey and Company for its role in “turbocharging” the opioid crisis, towards opioid abatement, treatment, and recovery, instead of diverting it to other uses.

“The opioid crisis has upended lives and devastated communities and families in every corner of the Commonwealth. It’s a unique crisis, and solving it will require a unique, thoughtful approach,” said Attorney General Herring. 

“I’m going after the pharmaceutical companies and distributors who helped create, prolong, and profit off this crisis, and I want to make sure that, when we’re successful, the money is used to address the crisis, expand our capacity for treatment and recovery, and to save lives. I really appreciate the partnership and leadership of Senator Barker, Delegate Herring, and their colleagues in the legislature who supported this really important framework, and especially those in the recovery community who have our back in this fight.”

“Attorney General Herring and his team have helped create a really thoughtful, effective approach for handling abatement money that may come available through his suits against the pharma companies that are, in many ways, responsible for the opioid crisis,” said Senator George Barker. “This framework will put Virginia at the forefront of the national movement for accountability, and help ensure that judgements or settlements are used wisely to help end the opioid crisis.”

“I really appreciate Attorney General Herring stepping up and holding big drug companies accountable for their role in creating and profiting off the opioid crisis,” said Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “This is a really proactive and responsible step to create structures for using the abatement money AG Herring is able to secure in a way that does the most good as quickly as possible, and really expands our capacity to treat opioid use disorder and help Virginians enter long-term recovery. We want to make sure this money is actually used to turn the crisis around, and we think this approach will help ensure that happens.”

SB1649 and HB2322 from Attorney General Herring, Senator Barker, and Majority Leader Herring will create a structure and framework for ensuring that “opioid abatement” funds recovered as part of AG Herring’s ongoing lawsuits and investigations against opioid manufacturers and distributors are used to fund opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery. It will help bring order and predictability to the distribution process if funds are secured, rather than forcing the Commonwealth to wait for a potentially significant influx of money, and then having to decide how to handle it.

The bill will establish an Opioid Abatement Authority controlled by subject matter experts who will ensure that funds are used wisely to support prevention, treatment, and recovery. If approved, the Board of the Opioid Abatement Authority would include:

  1. The Secretary of Health & Human Resources or their designee
  2. Two medical professionals with expertise in public and behavior health administration or opioid use disorders and their treatment
  3. A representative of the addiction and recovery community
  4. An urban or suburban representative from a CSB
  5. A rural representative from a CSB
  6. A law enforcement official
  7. A local government official
  8. A local government attorney
  9. As non-voting members, House Appropriations and Senate Finance & Appropriations Directors (or legislators from the committees, in the Senate version)

The legislation calls for the abatement funds to be partitioned in the following way:

  • 70 percent for opioid abatement split evenly (35 percent each) between 1) regional projects and 2) projects identified as effective by the Board of experts.
  • 15 percent reserved for state-identified abatement initiatives
  • 15 percent reserved for locality-identified abatement initiatives

Herring has filed suit against Purdue Pharma; the Sackler Family, owners of Purdue Pharma; and Teva/Cephalon for the roles that they played in creating the opioid epidemic. Additional multistate investigations and legal actions remain ongoing.

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