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Money from the landmark settlement will pay for treatment and prevention efforts across North Carolina in a crisis that killed nearly 30,000.

The opioid crisis has killed nearly 30,000 North Carolinians, but the state will soon receive $750 million from the drug companies responsible to help survivors “regain control of their lives,” NC Attorney General Josh Stein said last week.

The bulk of the money, part of a multi-state, $26 billion settlement, will go directly to local communities throughout the state to pay for “treatment, recovery, prevention, and harm reduction services,” Stein said in a news release Friday. 

Local communities will start receiving the money on April 2.

Opioids are highly addictive pain-reducing drugs that range from prescription Oxycodone to heroin. Nearly a million people in the US have died from drug overdoses since 1999, the Centers for Disease Control says, and at least 70% involved opioids.  

North Carolina and 13 other states filed the lawsuit three years ago against Johnson & Johnson and three pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. The deal, Stein’s office said, is the second largest state attorney general settlement in history. (A similar settlement with tobacco companies in 1998, which helped North Carolina and other states reduce smoking, is the largest.)

“These companies made billions of dollars while millions of Americans got hooked on opioids,” Stein said. “I pray that these funds will help us take a giant leap forward towards a better future for all North Carolinians.”

Attorney General Budget Cuts
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein speaks to reporters in Raleigh, N.C. in 2017. (AP Photo/Emery Dalesio)

The number of overdose deaths has been climbing in NC and the nation for years, but the pandemic sent deaths soaring. Data from the CDC show that 3,332 people in North Carolina died of overdoses from April 2020 to April of 2021. From August 2018 to August of 2019, there were 1,581 deaths. The vast majority are unintentional opioid overdoses, according to data from the NC Department of Health and Human Services

As part of the settlement, the drug companies will also help provide data to track where opioids are going in these communities, and to flag or stop any suspicion orders. 

You can find details on where and how the funds will be spent on the state’s new opioid settlement dashboard.