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Every year, more Michigan residents die from opioids than car crashes. Now, a historic court settlement could help communities save lives.


Need to Know

  • A national court settlement will limit the ability of manufacturers and distributors to irresponsibly dole out opioids.
  • It also allocates funds to communities here in Michigan to build out treatment and rehabilitation programs.
  • Experts say the outcome will help save lives.

INGHAM COUNTY, Mich.—Already in the throes of a pandemic, Michigan communities received a major source of assistance fighting the opioid epidemic.

As February drew to an end, state attorneys general, including Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, struck an agreement with the three primary opioid distributors as well as Johnson & Johnson, an opioid manufacturer, to pay billions that will funnel into local opioid treatment and recovery. 

Now, Michigan communities are collaborating to plan how to use the funding they’ll receive to prevent more deaths in the future.

“Following this settlement, our community aims to bolster our rapid response by improving access to harm reduction services and treatment, resources, and training to ensure that we are addressing the needs of those affected by opioid use,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said in a statement released through Nessel’s office.

Ingham County, which lies in the center of the Lower Peninsula and encompasses the capital region, saw a 31% jump in opioid-related deaths from 2019 to 2021. Experts say that the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue of drug overdoses.

Michigan, which has some of the highest rates of opioid deaths in the Midwest, will use its funding for a spectrum treatment and recovery resources. The hundreds of millions of dollars that Michigan will receive can go toward everything from training funds for first responders to naloxone, the life-saving medication in cases of overdoses.

Funding will reach state and local governments in summer or fall.

“This settlement will allow us to combat opioid addiction in our community through various means including the enhancement and improvement of our problem-solving courts in Genesee County like our successful Recovery Court,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said. 

On average, Michigan has more opioid-related deaths than deaths by car crashes every year. In 2019, almost five people a day in Michigan died from opioids, according to the Michigan Opioid Task Force.

Nessel, who’s a member of the task force, said the historic settlement will give Michigan communities robust, new services to address the opioid crisis.

“I took legal action once I took office to try to recoup money for the devastating impact that the opioid epidemic has had on the communities across our state,” Nessel said. “I am pleased to see our work pay off with this historic settlement that will bring Michigan communities millions of dollars to support abatement efforts.” 

The settlement will also prohibit Johnson & Johnson from selling and lobbying for opioids and puts in place a way to stop suspicious orders.

The lawsuit was the second-largest multistate agreement in the country’s history; it included more than 4,000 claims across 52 states and territories and spanned three years.

“I know that no amount of money will make whole the thousands of Michigan families impacted by opioids, but this is an important victory in a hard-fought battle,” Nessel said.