AUGUSTA, Maine — The state has reached an agreement with municipalities and schools on how to distribute $130 million in opioid lawsuit settlement money over 18 years.
It was unclear earlier this week whether Attorney General Aaron Frey would be able to wrangle a deal with all 39 entities affected by a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and opioid distributors. As of Monday, only roughly 40 percent had signed on, and the last-minute question of whether school districts would be able to secure their own money complicated negotiations.
Under the deal, 50 percent of the money will go into a recovery fund controlled by a council made up of a mix of officials from counties, municipalities and those appointed by Gov. Janet Mills, Frey or top lawmakers. Thirty percent of the funds will go to the 39 local governments affected by the lawsuit and the rest will go to the state.
The money is expected to be released in April, kicking off debate over how to best use the money to help Mainers recover from substance misuse after a pandemic that saw overdose deaths rise to record highs.
“At a time when Mainers continue to suffer from the pain and loss inflicted by the opioid epidemic, this agreement and the settlement it secures represents a significant opportunity to confront the crisis head on,” Frey said in a statement.
The agreement lays out the ways counties and municipalities are allowed to use the funds to treat, prevent and monitor the opioid misuse going on within their communities.
The school districts that joined the lawsuit will be able to apply for grants from the recovery council to address the epidemic’s effects within their districts, according to a separate agreement, such as hiring staff or creating treatment partnerships with social services providers.