VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — New York’s Southern Tier could receive over 26 million dollars from New York’s settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors, according to an announcement from State Attorney General Letitia James.
James was in Binghamton on Wednesday, as part of a statewide tour promoting the settlement. James said Broome County, like many counties across the state, has been especially hard-hit by the opioid crisis.
“Right here in Broome County, officials reported that there were more than twice the number of fatal overdoses in February of this year, compared to the same last year,” said James.
The funds, totaling $1.5 billion statewide, come from settlements with companies targeted by the state’s lawsuit against opioid distributors and manufacturers. The counties are required to spend the money on outreach, prevention, and treatment for people with Substance Use Disorder (SUD).
James said among other things, the money will go towards overdose-reversing drugs like Naloxone, or Narcan, education in local schools, and increased treatment for pregnant women and people experiencing incarceration.
Dr. Julia Hunter, an addiction specialist at UHS Binghamton, said harm reduction methods, such as the use of Narcan or the distribution of clean syringes, would help save lives. She said medications for opioid use disorder, such as methadone and buprenorphine, are also crucial to treatment.
“The funding is a recognition of an injustice done to a vulnerable population, and a step forward in healing families and communities,” said Hunter. “It is also an opportunity to revolutionize the way we deliver healthcare, specifically for people who use opioids.”
James emphasized that because of the recently passed Opioid Settlement Fund bill, the funds cannot be used for anything other than addressing the opioid crisis. She referenced past settlements with tobacco companies, and said that money had not been spent in the proper way.
“The tobacco settlement was used for so many things unrelated to the original litigation,” said James. “And it’s important, again, that we use these funds to provide lifesaving drugs, and lifesaving treatment.”
The state determined how much money each county would receive based on a variety of factors, including overdose numbers, fatalities, population and cost to the county, James said.
The amount each county gets will also depend on how many counties agree to the settlement. The more that that sign on, the more money each county will receive.
Broome County is expected to get anywhere from over $2 to $4 million. County Executive Jason Garnar reiterated that the county would make sure the money went towards efforts to deal with the opioid crisis.
“Broome County is committed to making sure that this funding is used wisely and directly supports the people who are dealing with substance use disorders,” said Garnar. “We won’t be plugging budget holes, this will be used on completely new programs and funding for services.”
Chemung County will receive anywhere from just over $1 million to almost $2 million, Tompkins County will be given around $1 million to over $1.7 million, and Steuben County will get anything from $980,000 to almost $1.7 million. The Opioid Settlement Fund Committee will work with counties to determine how funds are spent.