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County approves allocation of future settlement money from opioid manufacturers

By Carla O'Day
Washoe County Commission chambers in Reno, Nevada. Image: Bob Conrad.
Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey
Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey

An agreement to allocate recovery funds from lawsuits filed with the state against opioid manufacturers and distributors was approved Tuesday by Washoe County commissioners.  

Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Michael Large said the arrangement with other counties, cities, and the state allows a unified front.

“It allows our outside counsel to have a negotiating position that would be a statewide approach to help settle with potential defendants,” Large told commissioners.

Forty other states have settled with several major distributors in response to the opioid epidemic, Large said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription.

The state will get 43.86% of the allocation, local governments will get 38.77%, and the Medicaid match is 17.37%. The amount each county gets from the Medicaid match will depend on population. Approximately 14% of the Medicaid match will go to Washoe County, 65% to Clark County, and 21 percent to Nevada’s other 15 counties.

“This board recognized when the opioid issue first came to light, and took a cohesive step forward to combat this,” Commission Chairman Bob Lucey said. “The opioid epidemic has been rampant here in Washoe County.  We have witnessed it for many years, how challenging it’s been.  What is important is that we continue to fight for this type of money to rectify the challenges this epidemic has had on our community.”

According to a February 2021 report by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Analytics, Nevada saw a larger number of opioid overdose deaths in 2020 at 484 than what was previously considered the peak in 2011 of 460 overdose deaths. 

Last year Nevada experienced a 40% increase in opioid related overdose deaths over the previous year. The largest increase in overdose deaths was attributed to synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, with 246 of the 484 overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids.

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