A Washington state lawsuit against opioid distributors could soon bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the region, including local cities, to help those with substance use disorders.
The Arlington City Council considered joining in on the lawsuit settlement during their Sept. 12 work session.
“This is another settlement of a lawsuit, this time filed by the state of Washington, against three of the primary distributors that were responsible for distributing opioids in the state of Washington,” said Steve Peiffle, city attorney for the city of Arlington.
The lawsuit alleges that three drug distributors, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., bare some responsibility for the rise of opioid addiction in the state, although lawyers from the three companies disputed those claims in legal filings.
This will be the second such settlement for the city.
“Previously we signed onto an agreement that was a settlement of an agreement filed for cities and counties,” said Peiffle.
Under the settlement, the city of Arlington would be expected to receive about $563,000.
“The settlement is for a gross amount of $518 million dollars, which will roughly evenly split between the state and the cities and counties, with allocations based on population and other factors,” said Peiffle.
Other cities and counties around the state are also set to receive shares of the funds if they sign onto the settlement as well, which are meant to support individuals with substance use disorders and help them recover.
“Staff is certainly recommending that council authorize approval of this settlement,” said Peiffle.
Whether Arlington officials would use the money themselves or join in a regional effort with the county remains to be seen.
“We need a little time to do some analysis on this … is it going to the county and do we need to establish some kind of committee or protocol with the county on how the money will be allocated?” said Paul Ellis, Arlington city administrator.
Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert noted that the city already works with the county in this area.
“The work that we have done to reduce our population with substance use disorders has been in partnership with the county,” said Tolbert.
She said work such as embedded social workers and the diversion center have been in partnership with county officials.
“We have been working with experts there,” said Tolbert.
Arlington city council member Jan Schuette said she would like to make sure that Arlington uses the money wisely.
“I’d like to see who we could help,” she said. “I’d like to feel like we’re really making a difference.”
Arlington city council member Michele Blythe said the problem extends beyond just the homeless individuals who have substance use disorders.
“There are a lot of people in recovery that need assistance,” she said. “So I don’t think it’s just about people on the streets.”
Ellis agreed that the city will look carefully on how to spend the funds.
“We certainly want to be able to utilize the money to help the people that it’s intended for as best as possible,” he said. “It’s a one-time deal so we’re not going to get a second bite at the apple.”
The Arlington City Council plan to make a final decision to accept or reject the settlement offer during their Sept. 19 meeting.