COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Some 100 lawyers and government officials from across Ohio have made a "positive start" on deciding how millions of dollars that communities might receive through national opioid litigation settlements should be spent, said Gov. Mike DeWine.
DeWine said a meeting he convened Wednesday involving the state attorney general, lawyers for cities and counties and various state and local officials may serve as a national model.
"Everyone had the same goal, which is really to be united and have a united front as we move forward in future negotiations," the governor told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I think it's going well. We're working on getting an agreement and a working understanding of how the money should be spent."
It came just two days after the nation's three biggest drug distributors and a major drugmaker agreed to an 11th-hour, $260 million settlement over the toll taken by opioids in two Ohio counties, averting what would have been the first federal trial over the crisis.
DeWine, a Republican, said Summit and Cuyahoga counties' money from that deal is theirs to spend. The gathering focused on future potential settlement dollars from pending state and local suits, which could include help for individual communities or for state or local programs.
"Everyone understands there will never be enough money to make a person whole, or to pay the costs of their jail or the costs of their children's services agency for all these years," he said. "The goal should be maximizing the money coming that's available and then, No. 2, figuring out how to spend it strategically."
Representatives of the two counties participated in the meeting, along with Republican Attorney General Dave Yost, who is leading a separate state lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry.
Yost is among U.S. attorneys general still negotiating with drug companies in hopes of reaching a settlement in principle with five companies over the opioid crisis, a deal the two Ohio counties rejected in favor of cutting their own deal.
DeWine said also in attendance was Mike Moore, a former Mississippi attorney general known for leading the successful charge against Big Tobacco in the 1990s.