In a special meeting Thursday morning, the Campbell County Commissioners approved joining a national class action lawsuit against several opioid distributors in which a $26 billion settlement has been reached.
Wyoming’s portion of the prize is expected to be more than $30 million, which will be divided among all that join before Jan. 26, 2022. When the commissioners called for the special meeting last week, the deadline was Jan 2, 2022, but it has been extended in recent days to allow all interested municipalities time to file.
“It’s a growing list of counties and municipalities joining the lawsuit. We had the special meeting because the deadline, which was extended to allow counties and others time to file,” Commissioner Rusty Bell said. “The amount we would receive is unknown because it will be divided among everyone that joins the class action lawsuit. By the deadline, I’m sure most of the state will be in on it. I know we are not the first ones in Wyoming and probably not the last.”
The class action lawsuit is against Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corporation. The commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding between Campbell County, the State of Wyoming and all other participating Wyoming local governments regarding distribution and use of settlement funds.
“What it comes down to from my understanding is all the distributors involved downplayed the addictive nature of opioids,” Bell said. “The drugs were more addictive than they wanted to acknowledge.”
The $26 billion in settlements reached with all of the defendants will provide funds to all municipalities to be used in many ways in combating the increasing opioid problems throughout the county. Treatment, interventions, education and recovery services are just a few of the ways to fight the increasing addictions and drug abuse.
After the deadline, it will be months and years before all of the settlement funds are distributed. It is expected to be a long process but compensation will begin as early as April 2022 and take up to 18 years for full disbursement.
Participation levels will dictate whether the settlements move forward and affect how much money each state receives. If higher participation rates are not reached, those states will not receive the full financial benefit or risk losing their portion of the settlement.