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Long Story Short: After slow start, opioid settlement money expected to flow to cities and counties

Oklahoma Watch, Dec. 27, 2023

Money from legal settlements against opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers will finally start to trickle out to Oklahoma cities and counties in 2024, almost four years after lawmakers set up a board to administer the funds.

More than 250 local governments told the Oklahoma Opioid Abatement Board they were interested in applying for the grants. The money is supposed to go toward treatment and recovery programs and opioid abuse education and prevention.

The Opioid Abatement Board has about $27 million available for local communities, school districts and public trusts. The Legislature controls another $37.6 million sitting in the Opioid Lawsuit Settlement Fund. Additional funds are expected in coming years since some settlements call for multi-year payouts.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who chairs the nine-member board, said he’s been frustrated with the lack of action in getting money to local communities. Board turnover has also been a problem, with at least five members resigning at various times in the past year alone.

“I’ve been a large critic of the management of these funds from previous AGs, and there’s just absolutely no excuse,” Drummond said in an interview. “I’m glad that I have disciplined professionals that slow me down because I would like this money deployed immediately, but we need to be careful with these public funds and we need to be impactful.”

More than 1,700 Oklahomans died as a result of prescription opioid overdose from 2016 to 2021, according to theOklahoma Board of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Prescription opioid overdose deaths accounted for 33% of all drug overdose deaths during that same period.

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