CLICK HERE to Nominate Your Jurisdiction for the Principles Award!

Contact Us

How much money are we actually talking about?

July 21, 2022

The total dollar amounts coming to state and local governments as a result of the opioid litigation certainly sound impressive. Johnson & Johnson and the “Big Three” distributors settled for $26 billion; McKinsey settled for nearly $600 million; the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy could mean up to $6 billion for states and other creditors; other cases are still pending. But much of this money is spread among many states and local jurisdictions, and over many years (18 years for the settlement with the distributors). How much can be accomplished with this new funding stream?

Comparing the amount of opioid litigation money with existing money that states and counties get from the federal government to spend on substance use can provide some insights. The two most significant sources of discretionary spending that states and counties receive to address the opioid epidemic are:

  • Substance Use Prevention and Treatment block grants. These block grants do not have to be used on opioids specifically; they can be used by states to address substance use generally. 20% of the block grant money must be used on primary prevention activities.
  • State Opioid Response (SOR) grants. This funding stream began in the 2018 fiscal year; money is primarily intended for opioid mitigation. Over $1.4 billion will be awarded to states in fiscal year 2022.

Although states are the primary recipients of these two grant programs, some of the money goes to cities and counties as well. Let’s use a couple of states as illustrative examples to see how the money from the litigation compares to the amount of money coming from these existing funding streams. 

  • North Carolina. 

Over the course of the settlements with Johnson & Johnson and the three distributors, North Carolina will receive slightly over $757 million. (All of the money in North Carolina will go to cities and counties.) This money will be spread over 18 years, with more money coming in the early years. In 2022, the state will receive over $90 million; eventually the payments will stabilize at $33 million per year.

As a point of comparison, in fiscal year 2022, North Carolina received a little over $11 million as part of the Substance Use Prevention and Treatment block grant and was eligible for up to $35 million from the SOR grant.

  • Rhode Island

As of April 2022, Rhode Island anticipated receiving $185 million over 18 years from the settlement from the state’s opioid litigation. This money was divided with 80% ($148 million) going to the state and 20% ($37 million) going to cities and towns.

In 2022, the state projected it would have $20 million to disperse.

In fiscal year 2022, Rhode Island received just under $2 million from the Substance Use Prevention and Treatment block grant and was eligible for up to $7.5 million from the State Opioid Response grant.

As these two examples show, the amount of money that states and counties are receiving in this fiscal year from the opioid litigation are significantly larger than the amount of money they have been getting from the federal government to address substance use.

The amounts of money from the litigation will diminish over the next 18 years but still represent a substantial increase in the money available to mitigate opioid use.