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DeWine Encouraged By Talks About Dividing Ohio's Possible Opioid Settlements

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine handles a box of Narcan during a news conference on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine handles a box of Narcan during a news conference on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Cincinnati.

Gov. Mike DeWine says he is cautiously satisfied with the terms of a potential massive settlement against drug companies and distributors who have been accused of enabling the opioid crisis.

Dozens of Ohio local government leaders gathered privately in Columbus last Tuesday to discuss how to divide millions of dollars from a prospective settlement. An agreement between the state and local officials would be the first of its kind across the U.S.

Counties could get 30% of the money and the state 15%, with the other 55% going into a trust. 

DeWine says he likes the idea of a trust controlled by local communities to fight future addiction issues.

“Setting this money aside, setting this group up and then very intelligently attacking on a long-term basis the drug epidemic in the state of Ohio, and having the flexibility as it changes year to year, is something that I was willing to say, ‘Look. I don’t have to control it. Let’s put it into this trust.’ And if we can get a trust, this is the right thing to do," DeWine says.

DeWine says he doesn't want to see the settlement monetized like the tobacco settlement was years ago. He says it's important this money be protected so it can be used for addiction services. 

“This is going to be one-time money,” DeWine said. “You’re not going to sell it twice. You’re going to get the money. If you settle with each company, that’s all you are going to get out of that company.”

If a “super-majority” of local governments agree, the deal could result in a settlement with drug companies and distributors instead of hundreds of different suits.

So far in the cases, settlements have come on the eve of scheduled trials.  An opioid trial in Oklahoma last year ended up with just one defendant — drugmaker Johnson & Johnson — after other companies settled.

Another one on claims from the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit didn’t happen at all after a series of settlements, including some reached just hours before opening statements were to begin.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.