Communities to receive funds through AG’s settlement with drug manufacturer, distributors

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Marlborough High School students install flags late last week. Photo/Courtesy Marlborough Public Schools, Facebook
Purple flags honor the lives lost to opioid overdoses as part of a display at Marlborough High School last year. (Photo/Courtesy Marlborough Public Schools, Facebook)

REGION – Local communities will receive funds through a settlement with major drug manufacturers and distributors that was negotiated in part by state Attorney General Maura Healey.

The funds are intended to be used for “prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts,” according to the text of the settlement.

“It’s unknown at this point how much Hudson will receive,” Hudson Executive Assistant Thomas Gregory told the Community Advocate in an email last month.

He noted, though, that Massachusetts as a whole will receive $500 million over the next 18 years.  

Settlement brings in $26 million to address opioid crisis

This money comes after a bipartisan alliance of 14 attorneys general, including Healey, announced a $26 billion settlement with a manufacturer and several distributors of opioid painkillers in June of last year. 

The attorneys general had sued Johnson & Johnson and distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen over their role in distributing drugs that experts say contributed to the ongoing opioid epidemic. 

The number of opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts surged through the late 2000s and 2010s, peaking in 2016. The rate declined slightly in the years following 2016 before ticking back up in 2020.

Locally, Hudson recorded eight deaths last year according to state dataMarlborough saw 15 overdose deaths in 2020. Westborough recorded two. Four people in Shrewsbury died due to overdoses in 2020 while two died in Grafton. There were no overdose fatalities in Southborough and two in Northborough according to state data.

All Mass. municipalities eligible for payments 

The Attorney General’s office circulated notices to every Massachusetts municipality back in September inviting cities and towns to sign up to receive payments from the settlement. 

All Massachusetts municipalities are eligible, provided that they sign up and agree to use funds to address the opioid crisis. 

Though it did not note specific payments, a frequently asked questions page geared towards municipal leaders did explain that cities and towns would be splitting at least 15 percent of the money coming to Massachusetts. 

The remaining money will be sent to the statewide Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund “to fund additional prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery programs throughout Massachusetts” according to the FAQ page.

Municipalities initially had until Jan. 2 to return forms to the Attorney General or otherwise notify the Attorney General’s office of their plans to sign up to receive funds.

That deadline has since been extended to Jan. 26.

Individual municipalities join settlement

Contacted this week, a spokesperson for the Attorney General said she did not have a list of municipalities that have ultimately joined the settlement.

Hudson’s Select Board publicly opted in, though, with a vote on Dec. 6.

Officials in Shrewsbury and Grafton confirmed in emails this week that they have opted in as well.

Reached on Tuesday, Marlborough’s Executive Assistant to the Mayor Patricia Bernard said the mayor’s office “did not provide any input” on this matter.

“But I believe all communities will receive something,” she added.

The Marlborough City Solicitor was out of the office and therefore could not be reached for further comment.

The Community Advocate has reached out to town officials in Westborough, Southborough, Northborough asking whether those communities joined the settlement.

This article will be updated as any additional information becomes available.

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