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Over $60M in opioid settlement money to be paid to Md. jurisdictions

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced this week that more than $60 million in payments from a major opioid settlement are set to be paid out to counties and municipalities by the end of the year.

Fifty-eight political subdivisions in Maryland stand to gain from the settlement with the former opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and opioid distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen.

Maryland is set to receive nearly $400 million over the next 18 years as part of the settlement agreement. The $60 million to be distributed by the end of this year is the first portion of that total to be sent to participating counties and municipalities.

The funding is meant to address the opioid crisis throughout the state. About $47 million will be distributed to the Maryland Opioids Restitution Fund, which state lawmakers established in 2019 to pay for opioid abatement programs.

Another $13.5 million will be paid directly to counties and municipalities, Frosh’s office said. Nine Maryland counties will receive total grants or payments ranging from $1.3 to $7.8 million and smaller counties and municipalities will receive additional millions of dollars in total.

Baltimore County will receive the largest sum, including $5 million in targeted abatement grants and $2.7 million in direct payments, according to a spreadsheet detailing estimated payments.

Prince George’s County, Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County are each also set to receive between $3 and $4 million.

Notably absent from the payment list is the city of Baltimore, which declined to participate in the settlement with Johnson & Johnson.

Under the settlement, states could receive incentive payments for getting a larger number of political subdivisions to agree to the deal. The opioid defendants could have chosen to back out of the settlement if too many plaintiffs declined the settlement and chose to continue the legal battle in court.

Baltimore’s choice not to join the settlement shrank the overall payment Maryland received. Michael Sanderson, the executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, told The Daily Record previously that losing Baltimore, one of the state’s biggest and most populous jurisdictions, may have reduced the total coming to Maryland by about $100 million.

The Johnson & Johnson settlement is set to total $26 billion nationwide.

In a statement, Frosh said the funds will help prevent more opioid-related addiction and death.

“We appreciate the cooperation and hard work that have brought us to this point,” he said. “I am proud of the work the state and its subdivisions have done in holding wrongdoers accountable and securing this relief for the people of Maryland.”

Companies like Johnson & Johnson have faced a slew of lawsuits over their roles in the opioid epidemic, which has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.

The settlement marks the end of just one piece of an immense legal movement that has sought to hold opioid makers, sellers and marketers responsible for the addiction crisis. Other settlements with large companies that profited off opioids have also been reached during the past year.