Meeting Watch

The St. Croix County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution authorizing County Administrator Ken Witt to sign documents pertinent to an opioid settlement agreement including a memorandum of understanding with the attorney general that will position the county to receive $2.3 million as compensation for its expenditure of money and other resources to combat the opioid epidemic.

The settlement was the result of litigation coordinated by thousands of counties across the country including 66 counties in Wisconsin against McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Janssen Pharmaceuitca Inc.

Four Wisconsin counties, Dane. Waukesha, Milwaukee and Walworth hired separate counsel.

For the county to receive its full share of the settlement funds, all of the counties that were party to the lawsuit must sign off on the settlement agreement otherwise the settlement amount will be reduced by a percentage proportional to the unsigned counties.

The settlement stipulates that the county must set aside in an escrow account up to 25% of the settlement funds to pay legal fees. 

As part of the settlement, a national account was established to pay attorney’s fees. If the payment of attorney’s fees depletes that account, then the county’s escrow account could be used to pay attorneys’ fees. Even if attorneys’ fees end up being withdrawn from the county's escrow account, it is not expected to expend the full 25% and reimbursement cannot exceed that 25%.

The settlement specifies that 70% of settlement funds must be paid directly to the local governments that were party to the lawsuit and 30% to the state. 

Proceeds from the settlement agreement must be deposited in a segregated account designated as the “Opioid Abatement Account” and may be expended only for approved uses for opioid abatement as provided in the settlement.

According to county corporate counsel Scott Cox, payment of the settlement is scheduled to begin in 2022 and extend over a number of years.

“For Johnson & Johnson, the money is going to be paid over a period of nine years and the distributees are going to be paid over a series of 18 years. There is the possibility of monetizing that, in other words, discounting that, and the county receiving less money upfront. That's built into part of the state legislation which helped engineer this settlement,” Cox said. 

Tom Lindfors is a western Wisconsin freelance journalist and former Star-Observer reporter. Contact him at tom@lindforsphoto.com

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