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States, cities, and counties will soon be receiving funds from the opioid litigation

Substance misuse is an ongoing public health crisis in the United States; an estimated 20 million people have a substance use disorder related to alcohol or illicit drugs. Recent attention has understandably focused on the role of opioids—which have killed more than 500,000 people over the past two decades.

Already dire, the situation has worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic downturn and social distancing mandates have increased the chance of overdose among people who use drugs. Preliminary data indicate that overdose deaths have increased in most states compared to a year ago, with some states reporting an estimated 30% increase in opioid-related deaths in 2020.

With the influx of funding streams from the opioid litigation, jurisdictions must avoid what happened with the dollars that states received as part of the litigation against tobacco companies. Those landmark lawsuits were hailed as an opportunity to help current smokers quit and prevent children from starting to smoke. Unfortunately, most states have not used the dollars to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Overall, less than 3% of revenue from the settlement and tobacco taxes went to tobacco control efforts. Failure to invest these dollars in tobacco prevention and cessation programs has been a significant missed opportunity to address the greatest cause of preventable death in the United States.

To guide jurisdictions in the use of these funds, The Principles for the Use of Funds From the Opioid Litigation were created.

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increase in Drug Overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020
The highest rate in 2020
Death Rate per 100,000 Black Men
From 2020
young people ages 15-24 saw the biggest increase in fatal overdose deaths

Funding Acknowledgement

This project was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies as a part of the Bloomberg Overdose Prevention Initiative, a collaborative partnership aimed at combating the nation’s opioid epidemic by identifying gaps in treatment and prevention programs, identifying novel approaches and tools, and providing evidence-based guidance and interventions.