BEMIDJI – Bemidji City Council and Beltrami County Commissioners Council closed 2021 by reaching an agreement with the state to participate in opioid-related regulations.
At its Dec. 20 meeting, the board approved a resolution reaching a memorandum of understanding with the state of Minnesota, which is participating in a nationwide litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Estimates of the state’s share in the settlement amount to almost $ 300 million to be spent over 18 years.
Earlier in December, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that the state had reached an agreement with counties and cities on how to distribute the $ 300 million. Local governments are expected to receive 75% of the regulations, while 25% will go to the state.
To receive the funds from the settlements, local government units were asked to approve agreements with the state on distribution. Of the 75% listed above, the dollars in this portion will go directly to counties and towns with a population of 30,000 or more.
RELATED: Outbreak Amid Pandemic: Region Seeing Rise In Drug Overdoses
Discussing the settlement plan at a previous meeting, Bemidji mayor Jorge Prince said he was disappointed that towns like Bemidji did not receive direct funding.
“There is a lot of pain in the town of Bemidji, and I think it goes’ we are totally dependent on the county that works with us,” “Prince said. âThe only mechanism we have for this is a meeting once a year. It feels like it’s a one-size-fits-all model, and Bemidji is quite unique compared to other communities. “
âAt the same time, I’m a realist,â Prince added. “I understand what’s being said, that if we don’t sign this, there are grant opportunities that we may miss, and then we’re not doing our community any benefit either.”
A day after council moved to join settlement negotiations, the county government followed suit. On December 21, the Beltrami County Commissioners Council passed its own resolution to reach a memorandum of understanding with the state.
A story with opioid litigation
The history of Beltrami County with the litigation dates back many years. In February 2018, Beltrami County David Hanson was cleared to take legal action against national opioid manufacturers and distributors.
This decision was litigation in a multidistrict court, similar to a class action suit. However, a class action lawsuit brings together plaintiffs in a single lawsuit, while a multi-district litigation has separate plaintiffs.
Since then, other counties and the state of Minnesota itself have also launched their own lawsuits. At the December 21 meeting, Hanson said the lawsuits had essentially merged.
The state took a step forward last summer when Minnesota joined a broad multi-state coalition to strike deals with opioid maker Johnson & Johnson, as well as three distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.
In July 2021, Ellison also announced that the state is expected to receive more than $ 50 million over nine years from a settlement with Purdue Pharma, the company responsible for the opioid OxyContin. Introduced in the 1990s, OxyContin was promoted by Purdue, although the company is aware that the drug had addictive properties.
RELATED: Bemidji region sees sharp rise in drug overdoses, arrests
“No amount of money can ever make up for the death and destruction caused by the manufacturers and distributors of opioids in their pure pursuit of profit,” Ellison said in a recent statement. âNo amount of money can bring back the 5,500 lives we lost in Minnesota or completely restore the devastated families and communities in every part of our state.
âNow, we’ve brought together cities and counties across Minnesota in a historic agreement to squeeze as much money as possible out of these businesses and bring it to where the pain is, so we can alleviate the suffering of the people. families and communities in every part of our state as quickly as possible. “
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz also commented on the impending settlement via a statement.
âThis is an important step that will bring relief to countless families in the form of treatment and prevention to fight the opioid epidemic,â Walz said. âI am grateful for the work of Attorney General Ellison, as well as counties, service providers and the Opioid Outbreak Response Advisory Council in finding ways to bring help to communities most affected. “
Beltrami County and the surrounding area continues to be one of those communities in Minnesota. Over the past decade, social service departments have been depleted due to the increase in the number of foster families linked to opioid abuse. Law enforcement agencies are more accustomed to responding to overdoses, and health care providers have started providing medical treatment to people living with addiction.