Maricopa County has received its first payment as part of an historic settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors. The $4.7 million deposit is part of an estimated $80 million the County will receive from drugmakers and distributors over the next 18 years for their role in unlawfully marketing, promoting, and dispensing prescription opioids.
“It’s truly heartbreaking how many lives have been lost, damaged, or altered by opioid abuse and misuse in our community. These prescription drugs that were supposed to help have too often caused pain and suffering,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, District 3. “While we can’t un-do what’s been done, this money will allow us to aggressively combat this epidemic by funding evidence-based recovery and prevention programs.”
Approximately $2.3 million from this first payment will be distributed among cities and towns in Maricopa County using allocation percentages determined in the One Arizona Distribution of Opioid Settlement Funds Agreement.
Public Health will serve as the Lead Agency for administration of county funds and will be responsible for arranging payments to municipalities.
“This historic settlement brings an unprecedented opportunity to save lives and reduce harms caused by substance use, especially among communities hardest hit by this epidemic,” said Marcy Flanagan, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “Our hope is that these settlements will support existing state and county grants in funding sustainable programming and infrastructure to assist both people battling with substance use addiction and preventing our next generation from ever becoming addicted in the first place.”
Settlement funds must be spent in accordance with approved, nationally recognized strategies to address the opioid epidemic. Approved uses include expenses related to the treatment of opioid use disorder, support for people in treatment and recovery, support for people who have or are at risk of developing opioid use disorder, and prevention of overuse and misuse of opioids.
Opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 people in Maricopa County have gone up significantly since 2012 from 5.2 to 28.8 per 100K in 2021. During that same timeframe, overdose death rates involving synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl) increased more than 6000%, from 2.4 to 25.9 per 100k. In both 2020 and 2021, about 91% of drug overdose deaths among those ages 15-24 involved synthetic opioids.
Public Health is currently developing a framework for a countywide substance use prevention and response plan that will be used to help identify strategic priorities and investments needed to achieve desired outcomes. It will utilize state and county substance use data, as well as input to be collected from residents and subject matter experts, to inform recommendations on strategies and spending priorities. More details about this process will be announced in the coming months.
Efforts will be made to work with cities and towns to incorporate resident feedback, maximize coordination of funding strategies, and reduce duplication of work.
Information about current substance use initiatives, overdose data, and updates about the settlement can be found at maricopa.gov/SubstanceUse