The City of Littleton will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money from some of the country's largest prescription drug distributors and manufacturers as part of a national …
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The City of Littleton will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money from some of the country's largest prescription drug distributors and manufacturers as part of a national reckoning on the opioid epidemic.
During an Oct. 26 meeting, city council members unanimously voted to approve a memorandum of understanding that will allow the city to receive a roughly $600,000 slice of the more than $400 million in settlement funds that Colorado received as part of a $26 billion multi-state settlement with drug giants for their role in deaths from prescription drugs.
More than 7,600 Coloradans have died from accidental opioid overdoses over the last 20 years according to state data.
There is currently no city-wide data on opioid deaths in Littleton but the most recent data from the Tri-County Health Department reported 204 opioid deaths in Arapahoe County in 2017 and 2018, a 10% increase from 2015 to 2016.
The memorandum comes after Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced a plan in late August for how to distribute the $300 million in settlement money the state received from drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson and manufacturer Johnson and Johnson as well as $100 million from a previous settlement with other large manufacturers including Purdue Pharma.
Weiser's office plans to allocate 60% of the money to regions, 20% to local governments, 10% to the state and 10% to specific abatement projects. The plan is contingent on as many cities and regions as possible opting in to the settlement.
The more local governments that agree, the more money Littleton could receive, said city attorney Reid Betzing, adding that the approval of the memorandum gives the city a seat at the table for negotiating potentially more than the initial $600,000 figure, which is set to be distributed over 18 years.
“I will tell you that Colorado, in terms of how much is going back to local governments, greatly exceeds what we see on a national level,” Betzing said. “That was very important to the attorney general's office, to make sure that this money wasn't going to the state like it did with tobacco settlement, that there was an ability for local jurisdictions to control how those monies was being used.”
The money, which will be allocated at the discretion of council, is intended to be used to fund prevention strategies and treatment for drug abuse as well as shore up law enforcement and bolster education and recovery programs.
Betzing said the settlement money could be used to help a number of lives in Littleton.
“We look at, a lot of times, opioid use as being a homelessness issue,” he said. “But a lot of those people who are suffering from this type of addiction, they have homes, they're sitting in their apartment, their house right now. So it's a bigger problem than just (homelessness).”
Councilmembers pondered various ways to use the money following Betzing's presentation.
Kelly Milliman, council member for Littleton's District 4, asked if some of the money could go toward improving the Littleton Police Department's co-responder program, which partners officers with mental health clinicians when responding to people who they believe may be suffering from a mental health problem.
“That would certainly be a legitimate use,” Betzing siad.
Pam Grove, council member at-large, floated the idea of pooling Littleton's settlement money with the rest of the county to provide greater support, an approach that Betzing said may be “popular” among local officials.
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