Op-Ed: Here is our chance to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic

Published 7:35 am Wednesday, April 20, 2022

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By Attorney General Josh Stein 

More than 20,000 North Carolinians have lost their lives to opioid overdoses. Still more are struggling with the disease of addiction, and many thousands more live in fear that they will lose someone they love. The morphine molecule has left a trail of death, destruction and damaged families and communities in its wake all across our state.

After years of reading horrible statistics and devastating stories, help is on the way. I am so proud that my office led the bi-partisan, multi-state negotiations with the four major companies responsible for manufacturing and distributing opioids – Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson. These companies made billions of dollars while millions of Americans got hooked on opioids. Too many people are mourning their loved ones and too many jails are filled with people addicted to opioids.

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We achieved a historic $26 billion agreement that will distribute relief to state and local governments around the nation. North Carolina will receive $750 million, most of which will go straight to county governments to make a difference where it is needed the most. Now is the time for Dare, Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell counties to work with their local leaders and residents to decide on proven, effective strategies to address the opioid epidemic.

This settlement money represents a transformative tool in our fight against the opioid epidemic. The deal requires funds to go directly to strategies to attack the crisis. It also requires the companies to fundamentally change their business practices to ensure something like this never happens again. As a result of the national opioid settlement and the programs it will fund, I am certain that there will be people alive in North Carolina a year from now who otherwise wouldn’t be. In sum, this settlement brings much-needed hope to every corner of our state.

The opioid epidemic has devastated communities across North Carolina and Dare, Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell counties are no exception. In 2020, at least 30 people died from an overdose across those counties. That’s why, along with other health metrics, these counties will receive a combined total of $5,080,189 to combat the crisis. The money will be distributed to the county commission, which, with community input, will decide how to invest the money to save lives.

We required full transparency with the settlement funds so the public will know which programs each government funds and how effective the program was. We want the money to have the maximum impact so that more lives will be saved. Now is the time for each person in Dare, Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell counties to reach out to your county commissioners to make your voice heard. I encourage you to share your thoughts with them.

It’s been my honor to fight for the families all across our state who have suffered the tragedy of opioid addiction. I’m proud that this money will ensure that people with substance use disorder will get the help they need and bring us closer to ending the opioid epidemic. Together, we can achieve a North Carolina where people can lead happy, healthy lives, free of addiction.

Josh Stein is the attorney general for North Carolina.