LONG ISLAND, NY — After a years-long battle and countless stories of heartache and death sparked by addiction, a ray of justice dawned Tuesday as New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced the first funds from "historic" opioid settlements to be distributed on Long Island.
Long Island will receive a total of $46.9 million in the first round of payments, with $26 million allocated to Suffolk County and $20 million to Nassau, James said. All told, Long Island is expected to receive up to $228 million over the next years as part of the settlements.
The funds are the result of the $1.5 billion that James has secured so far for New York State as a result of settlements with the manufacturers and distributors of opioids, she said.
All 62 counties and the five largest cities in the state will begin receiving funds this week, which will be used for opioid treatment and prevention efforts.
James was joined on a Zoom by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman to announce the funding.
“For years, New Yorkers have experienced the dire and deadly effects of opioids peddled by pharmaceutical companies, but we are turning the tide with the distribution of $47 million to help communities on Long Island recover,” James said.“These funds, which are secured directly from the companies that fueled this crisis, are going directly to prevention, treatment, and recovery programs. While no money will ever compensate for the hundreds of thousands of deaths and countless families torn apart by opioids, these funds will help us rebuild and heal.”
The pandemic, James said, led to an uptick in overdoses. "2020 was the most dangerous year for overdoses our country has ever experienced," she said, adding that the numbers continued to rise in 2021.
In April, the New York State Department of Health released a report indicating that 2020 was the deadliest year for overdoses in history.
"This steep rise in overdose deaths in New York is tragic, but sadly not surprising," said Ann Marie Foster, president and CEO of Phoenix Houses of NY/LI. "The pandemic made getting and staying sober more challenging than ever, and the explosion in fentanyl use made drug cocktails more deadly — all while funding for treatment providers has significantly decreased, not increased. Treatment providers like Phoenix House, who are on the front lines of this fight against the opioid and overdose crisis, have seen a dramatic rise in substance use disorder cases and deaths for years now. We fear that overdose rates will continue to worsen."
Added Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, president and chief executive officer of the Family and Children's Association in Mineola: “This report echoes what we’ve seen here on Long Island and should amplify the voices of those who are no longer here to speak for themselves. The overdose crisis continues, especially across Nassau and Suffolk, but is complicated further by a dramatic surge in alcohol use and mental health challenges associated with Covid. "
Of the funding news, Reynolds added: "These announcements are great, but as we battle overdoses on a daily basis, community organizations, treatment facilities and recovery centers need these funds now. Every day we wait is a missed opportunity. Deploy the funds, track the outcomes, double down on what’s working and let’s end this crisis once and for all.”
And, said Mark Epley, president and CEO of the Seafield Center, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Westhampton Beach: "The report is consistent with what we have experienced at Seafield. The number of overdoses associated with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression has increased dramatically especially with young people. The fentanyl-laced substances such opioids, cocaine and marijuana on the black market is on the rise and people are unaware of the real substance they are putting in their body."
All agreed that funding was critically important in providing much-needed services.
“For far too long, our region has been plagued by the opioid epidemic, and while these settlement agreements can never bring back the loved ones that have been lost to this terrible epidemic, these funds will have a significant impact on preventing future tragedies as we work to end this crisis once and for all.” said Bellone, who thanked James.
The funding, he said, will "go towards stopping further death and destruction.”
The first payments come from settlements with opioid distributors — AmerisourceBergen Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and McKesson Corporation, James said.
Later this year, Long Island will receive additional payments from the settlements with Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Allergan. In addition, counties will receive funds from the New York State Opioid Settlement Fund, which is managed by the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports, james said.
In 2022, Long Island will receive a total of $46,900,693, with $20,461,139 going to Nassau County and $26,439,555 allocated to Suffolk.
In October,James visited the Thrive Center in Hauppauge with Bellone as part of her statewide "HealNY’"tour, where she announced that she would deliver up to $228 million to help residents on Long Island combat the opioid epidemic.
In March, 2019, James filed an extensive lawsuit to hold manufacturers and distributers accountable for the scourge. The manufacturers named in the complaint included Purdue Pharma and its affiliates, as well as members of the Sackler Family, owners of Purdue, and trusts they control; Janssen Pharmaceuticals and its affiliates, including its parent company Johnson & Johnson; Mallinckrodt LLC and its affiliates; Endo Health Solutions and its affiliates; and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. and its affiliates, James said.
The distributors named in the complaint were McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation, and Rochester Drug Cooperative Inc., James said.
In September, James secured an agreement with Endo that brought $50 million to New York State, including Nassau and Suffolk Counties, to combat the crisis; the agreement also removed the manufacturer from the trial, she said.
Also in September, James said a bankruptcy court in Purdue confirmed a $4.5 billion plan — of which, at least $200 million was earmarked for New York — from the Sackler family and its foundations, that would end the Sacklers' ability to manufacture opioids ever again and would shut thedoors on Purdue Pharma, the AG said.
In July, 2021, a settlement was reached with McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen that will bring $1 billion to New York State to battle the opioid epidemic, Jame said. In June, 2021, a settlement was announced that would end Johnson & Johnson's sale of opioids nationwide, she said.
The deals with Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen have a global value of approximately $26 billion, James said. The cases against Mallinckrodt and Rochester Drug Cooperative are now moving separately through U.S. Bankruptcy Court, she said.
Blakeman said he had named a new director of substance abuse and would look at where the needs are greatest to allocate funding, including rehabilitation, which he said is a priority — as well as individual and family counseling.