Buncombe County could be getting a payout from a years-old lawsuit against the opioid industry. County Commissioners were updated on the litigation during their meeting on May 4. As a result of the federal lawsuit, which was joined with thousands of other lawsuits filed by local governments in a federal court Multi District Litigation (MDL) action in Ohio, Buncombe could be receiving a portion of an estimated $850 million that is expected to be allocated to North Carolina as part of a national settlement with some of the MDL defendants. That money would be distributed among North Carolina local governments according to a formula developed by attorneys representing local governments in national litigation.
In preparation of accepting the funding, Commissioners will consider signing a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the State of North Carolina. The MOA would allocate 2.51% of any recovery allocated to North Carolina local governments to Buncombe to fund strategies to address the epidemic.
The lawsuit, filed in 2017, was the first of its kind filed in North Carolina with 76 other state counties and eight municipalities also filing suit. The goal is for settlement money to help provide much-needed funding toward resources and services in the ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic. Combatting this critical public health issue has long been a priority of Buncombe County as we are on the frontlines responding to and caring for community members struggling with addiction. The peripheral effects of the COVID-19 pandemic such as unemployment and isolation led to an uptick in opioid use, and the additional funding would provide pivotal assistance in creating and bolstering community resources. From 2000-2019, more than 16,000 North Carolinians died of opioid overdoses. The lawsuit looks to hold opioid manufacturers, distributors, marketers, and others accountable for the lives damaged and lost due to this epidemic.
Commissioners took no action on signing the MOA and will consider doing so at a future meeting.
Last year, the Buncombe County Register of Deeds launched a website, exploring the opioid epidemic and tracking opioid-related deaths. Click here to view that website.