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North Dakota, Minnesota to receive millions of dollars in landmark opioid settlement

The landmark settlement, the second-largest multi-state agreement in U.S. history, will send a total of $45 million to North Dakota and $303 million to Minnesota, according the attorney general’s offices of the two states.

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BISMARCK — North Dakota and Minnesota are each set to receive tens of millions of dollars out of a $26 billion national settlement with some of the country's largest drug distribution companies and one drug manufacturer over the impacts of the opioid epidemic.

The landmark settlement, the second-largest multi-state agreement in U.S. history, will send a total of $45 million to North Dakota and $303 million to Minnesota, according the attorney general’s offices of the two states.

The agreement with three drug distributors — Cardinal, McKessen and AmerisourceBergen — along with the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson closes out three years of negotiations and resolves more than 4,000 claims from state and local governments around the country.

Liz Brocker, spokesperson for the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, said 85% of the state’s settlement money will go directly to the state government through the Department of Human Services, while the remainder will be distributed among 44 eligible counties and 11 eligible cities. Though specifics on the North Dakota funding have not yet been released, Brocker said the money will go toward treatment, prevention, recovery and other programs related to the opioid epidemic.

At least 85% of the funds going directly to states and local governments must be earmarked for programs aimed at abating the opioid epidemic, according to an executive summary of the settlement.

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A website outlining specifics about the opioid settlement does not contain any information about North Dakota’s cut of the agreement or list any of its qualified cities or counties. LuWanna Lawrence, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Services, said the department has not yet met about the settlement with the state’s newly appointed Attorney General Drew Wrigley.

Brocker said North Dakota’s initial disbursement would come in the second quarter of this year, with other payments spread out, but said she could not provide additional information on the settlement at this time.

In Minnesota, all 87 counties and 143 cities signed onto the settlement, according to a statement last week from the office of Attorney General Keith Ellison. Lawmakers must enact legislation implementing the funds before Minnesota can unlock its full share of the funding. Seventy five percent of Minnesota’s funds will go toward local governments, for treatment, prevention, recovery and other programs to address the national opioid epidemic.

“No amount of money will ever make up for the death and destruction that opioid companies caused families and communities around Minnesota. Still, it is important to hold them accountable for the harm they’ve done, and these settlements do that,” Ellison said in the statement. The Minnesota attorney general thanked all of the counties and cities that got on board with the settlement, saying that, as a result, the state “has maximized the benefit of this settlement for our communities.”

Separately, Native American tribes around the country reached settlements last month with the drug distributors and manufacturer totaling $665 million from the total national sum. Those settlements are set to send funds to numerous tribes in both North Dakota and Minnesota.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.

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