Georgia attorney general seeks ‘maximum allocation’ from opioid distributors

Members of the State Opioid Task Force met Tuesday at Kennesaw State University to discuss how to crack down on the opioid crisis. (Courtesy of the Georgia Attorney General's Office)

Credit: Matt Bruce

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Members of the State Opioid Task Force met Tuesday at Kennesaw State University to discuss how to crack down on the opioid crisis. (Courtesy of the Georgia Attorney General's Office)

Credit: Matt Bruce

Credit: Matt Bruce

Over half a billion dollars remains on the table for communities across the state that were devastated by the opioid crisis.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced this week that he’s still negotiating with national opioid distributors that were sued by thousands of local governments for the role they allegedly played in fueling the epidemic.

Georgia is one of six states that has yet to agree to the terms of a landmark $26 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson, a leading opioid manufacturer, and three of the nation’s largest drug distribution companies — McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc., and Amerisource Bergen Corp.

During a meeting of the Statewide Opioid Task Force on Tuesday, Carr gave indications that he won’t sign off unless Georgia can receive the “maximum allocation” he said pill providers owe the state.

“I want everybody in this room to know I am committed to making sure Georgia is in the best position to receive 100% of what we’re entitled to. If not, it is not a good deal for the state of Georgia, period,” the attorney general told a roomful of stakeholders gathered inside the Kennesaw State University Center.

Georgia stands to receive up to $636 million for opioid prevention programs as part of the settlement deal. At least 25% of that would trickle down to local governments. But it’s contingent upon state officials endorsing the agreement.

Carr said Georgia would only get its full allotment if there’s “maximum participation” at the local level and municipalities agree not to bring future lawsuits against the companies. If those benchmarks aren’t met, the state’s allocation could be reduced by 45%, Carr indicated.

Cobb County was one of the first counties in the state to agree to join in the settlement Nov. 18. Local officials said they hoped that would spur other counties and cities to sign on.

ExploreCobb joins billion-dollar opioid settlement, which still needs state approval

“No Georgia community is a stranger to nor immune from the devastating effects of the opioid crisis, and we are currently working to ensure the best possible outcome for our state and our fellow citizens,” said Carr, who commended Cobb County for participating in the settlement.

Tuesday’s meeting was a gathering of front-line physicians, community leaders and others leading the fight against opioid abuse.

Among the guests was Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) who spoke of some of the legislative pushes she and other lawmakers are doing to fight addiction. Kirkpatrick said she’s also interested in working with stakeholders to distribute whatever opioid settlement dollars flow into Georgia next year

“We need to head in the right direction because we know that we don’t have enough beds, we don’t have enough providers, we don’t have enough staff,” the senator said. “It’s really at a point where we’re in a crisis, and we need to be sure that we make good decisions.”

Experts said the pandemic decreased access to care, caused delays in treatment, created an atmosphere of social isolation and triggered mental health stressors. In the meantime, drugs like fentanyl became more accessible.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last month that there were more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in America between April 2020 and April 2021. That represented a 28.5% increase over the amount of deadly overdoses from the same 12-month period the previous year.

And it was driven by a 35% spike in opioid overdoses during the first year of the pandemic, according to the CDC.

Georgia is not immune. Between May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021, all drug overdose deaths statewide increased 33.4% when compared against same 12-month period a year prior, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Opioid-related overdose deaths increased 46.7% during that span and fentanyl-involved fatalities more than doubled.

caption arrowCaption
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr addresses a crowd at the Kennesaw State University Center during a Statewide Opioid Task Force meeting Tuesday. (Courtesy of Georgia Attorney General's Office)

Credit: Matt Bruce

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr addresses a crowd at the Kennesaw State University Center during a Statewide Opioid Task Force meeting Tuesday. (Courtesy of Georgia Attorney General's Office)

Credit: Matt Bruce

caption arrowCaption
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr addresses a crowd at the Kennesaw State University Center during a Statewide Opioid Task Force meeting Tuesday. (Courtesy of Georgia Attorney General's Office)

Credit: Matt Bruce

Credit: Matt Bruce

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