The City of Paso Robles will soon decide if it will opt into a multi-billion dollar opioid settlement agreement.
We first brought you the story over the summer about a $26 billion opioid lawsuit settlement in which local cities and counties will receive some of California’s nearly $2 billion allotment.
“There is an opioid epidemic across the nation and it hits us right here in San Luis Obispo County pretty hard,” said Frank Warren, Division Manager for Prevention & Outreach with the County of San Luis Obispo Behavioral Health Department.
Now the three largest U.S. drug distributors and an opioid painkiller manufacturer are trying to resolve claims that they played a role in that epidemic with a historic $26 billion settlement.
Kim Lacey, founder of SLO Overdose Awareness, lost a son to overdose five and a half years ago. He was discharged from a residential treatment program for five days when he decided to use again.
“But by now his tolerance was really down and this couple found him not doing well, sort of unconscious, but they didn't understand what was going on so they helped him back to the couch and he passed away there,” Lacey explained.
Counties and cities all over the U.S. are opting into the opioid settlement.
If the City of Paso Robles does that and releases claims against the distributors and manufacturer, the city could receive more than $37,000 per year for 18 years. That’s a total of more than $680,000 that must be used for addiction treatment and prevention.
“People around him didn't recognize the signs of overdose and didn't have naloxone or Narcan available,” Lacey said. “The opportunity to walk into a treatment program or walk into an office, locally, and say, ‘Hey, I’m ready, help me,’ and somebody could get him there would make a world of difference.”
The funds will go directly to the county unless the city can handle it on its own.
“There certainly is a need for treatment,” Warren said. “In our community alone, about 150 admissions to the emergency room, opiate-related, just in the last year. When it comes to prevention, the more we can get the message out and we can educate people about the dangers of opiate use and overdose, we'll save lives.”
San Luis Obispo County has had an increasing number of deaths related to overdose over the past few years with most of that being opioid or fentanyl related.
The coroner’s report hasn’t yet been released for 2021.
“We were at 56 in the prior year but I’m assuming we'll be well over 75 in this last year,” Warren said.
The city must opt into the settlements by January 2, 2022. If it doesn’t, its designated funds will go to the state.
According to the CDC, more than 75,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021. That’s up from more than 56,000 the year before.