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Frequently Asked Questions About Statewide Settlements With Opioid Distributors and Johnson & Johnson

Your municipality should have recently received a notice about two national opioid settlements. This page provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding the notice and the settlements.

Table of Contents

(1) My municipality received a Notice in the mail about two Opioid Settlements. Is it real?

Yes. The Notice your municipality received relates to two Settlements resolving opioid claims against the nation’s 3 largest distributors, Cardinal, McKesson and Amerisource Bergen, and opioid-maker Johnson & Johnson ("the Settlements") for their role in the opioid epidemic. The Notice went out to all Massachusetts cities and towns.

Under the Settlements, the State and its municipalities stand to receive up to $537 million ("Abatement Funds") to abate the opioid epidemic over the next 18 years, starting in early to mid-2022. The more municipalities that join, the more the Distributors and J&J will pay under the Settlements. 

(2) Has the State joined the Settlements?

Yes. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, together with the majority of state Attorneys General across the country have signed on to the Settlements. Those AGs and lawyers representing thousands of municipalities in the national opioid litigation strongly encourage municipalities to join. 

Municipalities that join will be helping to bring additional abatement resources to communities and families throughout the state for substance use prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery.

(3) If my municipality joins, will it receive direct payments?

Yes. Massachusetts municipalities that join the Settlements will receive direct annual payments to expend on municipal abatement strategies developed with input from public health experts, municipal leaders, and families affected by the crisis. 

(4) If my municipality joins, how much of the Abatement Funds will it receive?

Under the default terms of the national Settlements, Massachusetts municipalities that join the Settlements would directly receive 15% of the total Abatement Funds, divided among the municipalities in the percentages reflected in the Settlements. We anticipate Massachusetts municipalities will receive considerably more than the 15% default. We are still working through the specifics and plan to update this FAQ.  

(5) How were those percentages set?

Lawyers and experts in the national opioid litigation developed the allocation model based on nationally available federal data on opioid use disorder, overdose deaths and 2006-2016 opioid shipments into Massachusetts, by region and community.

(6) How can my municipality join the Settlements?

Municipalities can join the Settlements by sending their completed Subdivision Settlement Participation Form (with an original signature) to:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Office of the Attorney General

Attn: Opioid Settlement Team

One Ashburton Place

Boston, MA 02108

Alternatively, municipalities may complete their Subdivision Settlement Participation Forms electronically via DocuSign after registering online using their municipality’s unique registration code.  Once a municipality is registered, it will be provided instructions regarding how to complete and submit the required participation forms online.  Please note that this is a 2-step process and there can be short delay between registering and receiving the participation forms/completing the process.  Municipalities that need their unique registration code can request it by emailing MAOpioidSettlements@mass.gov.

(7) Is there a deadline for returning the Subdivision Settlement Participation Forms?

Municipalities should return their Subdivision Settlement Participation Forms by January 26, 2022.  

(8) Where will the statewide Abatement Funds go?

Abatement Funds that are not distributed directly to municipalities will go to the recently-created statewide Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund to fund additional prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery programs throughout Massachusetts. The Attorney General has already directed more than $11 million to the Fund from other state opioid settlements.

(9) Do municipalities have a role in the statewide Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund?

Yes.  The Fund is overseen by the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services together with a Council comprised of 10 municipal appointees appointed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association and 10 state appointees.  The appointees are qualified by experience and expertise regarding opioid use disorder. 

In its first year, the Council met four times and focused on reviewing the scope of the opioid crisis in Massachusetts, the existing landscape of substance use prevention and treatment programming in Massachusetts, and opportunities to address racial and geographic inequities in substance use prevention and treatment. The Council dedicated significant time to developing a set of principles for future expenditures from the Fund.

On September 30, 2021, the Council voted unanimously to approve a proposal, based on suggestions and feedback provided by the Council, to spend $10 million from the Fund to expand harm reduction services, increase access to methadone, expand supportive housing, and fund outreach teams to provide treatment, rehabilitation, and supportive services in home and community settings.  The Council filed its first Annual Report on October 1, 2021.

(10) What about attorney’s fees?

Some municipalities in Massachusetts and other States retained attorneys on a contingency fee basis to file opioid litigation.  The national Settlements establish a $1.6 billion Attorney Fee Fund and $200 million Cost Fund for attorneys representing municipalities that join the Settlements. The Settlements require attorneys who recover from those funds to waive enforcement of their contingency fee entitlements as to all of their clients and notify their clients accordingly.  

The state’s investigation and litigation against the opioid industry is handled by government lawyers in AG Healey’s office.  No money from these Settlements will go to pay any state lawyers.

(11) Where can I get more information about the Settlements?

Municipalities that retained attorneys to file opioid litigation should consult their attorneys.

To speak with someone on the Attorney General’s opioids team, email MAOpioidSettlements@mass.gov.

Additional settlement-related information is available at https://nationalopioidsettlement.com/.

Check back for updates to this FAQ.

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