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Indianapolis approves proposal to opt out of US opioid settlement worth millions

UPDATE: The proposal was approved.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The City-County Council on Monday night was to vote on a proposal to opt out of its share of the state’s national settlement over the opioid crisis.

The decision will mean the city government will continue to pursue its own lawsuits against opioid manufactures independently.

Indiana is expected to receive more than $700 million to go toward combating the opioid epidemic.

Cohen & Malad, the firm representing Indianapolis and Marion County in the independent lawsuits, says a recent state law states that Indiana’s cities and counties will only get 15% of the total settlement money. Any additional money from the state will be in control of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration to decide how and where it’s allocated.

“None of us have a crystal ball. None of us can predict the future,” says Richard Shevitz, an attorney at Cohen & Malad. “But, I think that’s the considerations that these cities and counties are facing.”

Shevitz pointed to the state’s $217 million settlement with tobacco companies in 2014 as an example of how much of the “money didn’t reach the local community.” He emphasized the importance of local communities being allowed to choose how the money is used.

“We’ve encountered where jail populations have expanded. There have been stories where coroner’s offices had to rent out temporary facilities just to house the bodies because they couldn’t get to them in time and hire additional staff. So, I think the value is getting the money into the hands of the local community and allowing them to make the tough decisions.” 

In 2020, 214 people died due to opioid overdoses in Marion County, which is more that any other counties in the state, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Indianapolis first filed its lawsuit in 2017 at the height of the opioid epidemic in the Midwest.

“They all sought relief from pain and were instead administered addiction,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett at an press conference in October 2017.

The city government declined to comment to News 8 on pending litigation. However, Shevitz says, more of Indiana’s cities and counties are expected to opt out of the national settlement. “Other cities and counties are looking at the same set of facts that we’re looking at here in Indianapolis, the same dynamics, and are in the same process of coming to the same conclusion that it makes sense for them to opt out,” Shevitz said.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office says the state’s settlement will be divided into regions, and the money will be handed out “per population.”

The deadline for cities and counties to drop out of the state’s settlement is June 30. They will have another 60 days to opt back in if they choose.

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