Connecticut has received an initial installation of $11 million from a $26 billion multistate settlement with Johnson & Johnson and drug wholesalers AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.
The four companies were sued for their roles in the opioid crisis. Over the next 18 years, Connecticut will receive $300 million as part of the settlement reached in February. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the first payment in Waterbury on Monday. He was joined by state officials and by parents who lost children to the opioid crisis.
Christine Gagnon of Southington, who lost her son Michael five years ago, said she wants to see the settlement money used to support drug education. With the increasing prevalence of fentanyl, she said, young people in particular need to know that even one pill can kill them.
“There needs to be more … done to push that message because people aren’t able to experiment with drugs anymore,” Gagnon said. “Experimenting with drugs is like playing Russian roulette, and we’re seeing it more and more, so we need to get them young.”
Another parent, Liz Fitzgerald, who is grieving the loss of sons Kyle and Matthew to drug addiction, said that while some of the settlement funds should go toward education, it should also support victims’ families.
“I’d like to see this money being allocated also to the families that spent all of their 401(k) plans and have kind of gone a little bankrupt trying to get their children help and then, at the end of the day they’ ve lost all of their funds,” Fitzgerald said.
Tong, who represented Connecticut in the lawsuit, said Monday that technically, the settlement money will go to cities and towns because that’s where the treatment programs are.
State Attorney General William Tong stressed that the settlement has been structured to put the money in the hands of Connecticut’s cities and towns.
“This isn’t just about the money,” Tong said. “These lawsuits, they’re not just about resources and funding, they’re about families, and it’s about doing justice.”
Tong announced the payment settlement at Waterbury Fire Department Station 10, where firefighters are called on to respond to overdoses. Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said the department administered the opioid emergency treatment Narcan 870 times last year.
“Every day we talk about someone leaving us from an opioid overdose is a very sad day, but I really, honestly think today is a turning point where we can actually get the funding that is desperately necessary to continue this battle,” O’Leary said.
Waterbury will receive $73,281 from the first payment of $11 million. O’Leary says part of it will go to a city program that deploys technicians to overdoses.