SCIOTO — Due to a training scheduled for the Scioto County Commissioners Thursday, commissioners met Tuesday to give more details on a recent vote for the county not to opt in to an opioid settlement with the state.
On Aug.12, 2021, commissioners went into executive session to discuss an opioid settlement and whether the county wanted to opt in to the settlement to receive funds from pharmaceutical companies involved in the opioid epidemic that has plagued the county.
In a vote of two to one, with Commissioners Bryan Davis and Scottie Powell voting not to opt in and Commissioner Cathy Coleman voting to opt in, the county did not join in on receiving the settlement from Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen and the McKesson Corporation.
“Last Thursday, we voted on the opioid litigation settlement and afterword’s we came back from executive session. I’m not going to deny that I was a little shocked by the outcome of the vote,” Commissioner Cathy Coleman said at the Tuesday, Aug. 17 meeting. “It took me a little by surprise and when I took a moment to say something, I misquoted some numbers and I apologize for that.”
Coleman clarified the numbers she stated last week by stating that McKesson, Amerisource Bergen and Cardinal Health have offered to settle an opioid lawsuit by paying Ohio an $800 million payable over 18 years.
“The terms are complex, but the best-case scenario is that Scioto County receives 1.8 million,” Coleman said. “By not opting into the settlement, the county will not be able to participate in the first funds that reach Ohio both in the local settlement and regional settlement.”
Coleman shared she believed the county was missing “the force for the trees” and stated that they had previously signed on to the One Ohio agreement, which allowed the commissioners to participate in Ohio’s funds. Coleman stated it was the golden standard to get money to abate the opioid epidemic.
Coleman said if the commissioners fought the companies on their own, it could take years before a court date was set and no, there was no guarantee they would get any money for the county.
“If the companies sustain many big verdicts, the companies will likely go bankrupt and the county will likely receive nothing,” Coleman said. “We could be part of a statewide solution. We could have been part of how the money would be spent by the foundation had we opted in.”
Coleman shared that the county’s lawyers, County Commissioners Association, Attorney General and Governor recommended that the county opts in to the settlement and that the time and resources it would take to prepare for court on their own would cripple the government.
“With that being said, I just wanted to clarify some of the nature of this settlement and my comments last week,” Coleman said.
Commissioner Powell also spoke about the vote from Aug. 12, stating he understood where Coleman was coming from and stood by his vote of not opting into the settlement.
“I think 96% of the state right now has opted in,” Powell said. “My vote is not against Ohio; my vote is for Scioto County.”
Powell shared with the commissioners that in three separate years, in the height of the epidemic, Scioto County had more opioids distributed than anywhere else in the country.
“In the country. Not in the state. In the country,” Powell said.
In discussion with another commissioner from another county, which had opted into the settlement, Powell shared that he asked how many treatment facilities their county had. Powell stated he got a response of maybe two. Powell said he shared that Scioto County had 54 facilities and the other commissioner laughed and said it was because they were sending all their people to Scioto County.
“So, when I think about a settlement where we are working with a region that are already sending us their problems, how do you get over those barriers,” Powell said. “They are going to keep sending us those problems and then we’re going to get into a region to abate different counties. It’s $20 million over 18 years, so 1.2 million that we are now fighting it out with different counties and all the cities and subdivisions within the district. I think we can do better.”
Powell stated again that his vote to not opt in to the settlement was not against Ohio, but for anybody who has had somebody die from an overdose, somebody taking care of children because their parents are addicted and for employers who can’t find workers.
“With all the problems, tell me what I can fix with $100,000 a year,” Powell said. “I think we can do better and not all states have agreed to this deal. Ohio has, but there have been other states who opted out. So, once again, my vote isn’t against the One Ohio plan. I don’t think it’s a great plan for Scioto County because we are such an outlier.”
Commissioner Davis also commented on the vote stating he agreed with Powell and that he didn’t think he could add much more to what Powell said.
“One thing everybody needs to understand is we do have the right under the One Ohio plan that was signed between the subdivisions and the Governor of the state of Ohio. We have the right to forgo a settlement on any of these,” Davis said. “I wasn’t elected to represent Columbus. I wasn’t elected to represent Ohio. I was elected to represent the citizens of Scioto County.”
Davis shared that many families in Scioto County had been affected by the epidemic and under the settlement, their stories would not be told and the defendants would not have to have their “dirty laundry” aired.
“Everything will be sealed. Nothing will be said about what they did to our community,” Davis said. “There will be no fault assigned and the defendants will not have to say they are sorry for what they did.”
Davis shared that he stood by his no vote and that he recommends Attorney General Yost get back to work in negotiations and get an appropriate settlement for Scioto County and all of Ohio.
“They know how bad of a deal this is,” Davis said. “I am not willing to settle for payments when our people have been hurt so drastically.”
Reach Adam Black at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1927, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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