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Incorporating the Principles into Settlement Spending: Two Examples of Award Winning Planning

Rock County, Wisconsin and the state of Colorado received awards for Excellence in the Application of the Opioid Litigation Principles for distinction in incorporating the Opioid Litigation Principles into their decision-making process. This blog post gets into the details of what they did!

See our previous blog post for the announcement, and Rock County’s press release here. As a reminder, one award apiece will be given to a state and county/city quarterly throughout 2023. You can nominate your state or county here. The next deadline is March 31, 2023.

Rock County, Wisconsin

Rock County, WI is located in south-central Wisconsin, adjacent to Illinois, with a population of approximately 160,000. Anticipating the receipt of opioid litigation funds, the County established a Workgroup of county agencies to make recommendations on how to spend the funds. The process used by the Workgroup incorporated many key elements from the Principles into its decision-making process:

Using Evidence to Guide Recommendations (Principle 2)

The cross-agency Workgroup was tasked with making recommendations to the County Board of Supervisors on how best to use the money coming to the County. The Workgroup used the input from the public and the recently completed Rock County Substance Use Community Assessment to identify areas of need.

The Workgroup then explored evidence-based recommendations that would address these areas of needs. The Workgroup’s Report of Recommendations to the Board of Supervisors specifically referenced the evidence supporting each of the recommendations. 

Prevention (Principle 3)

The Workgroup intentionally solicited feedback from local prevention coalitions. One recommendation from the Workgroup was the funding of additional evidence-based youth substance use prevention programs. 

Equity (Principle 4)

The Workgroup recognized the need to address equity with the opioid litigation funds. In order to address this, the Workgroup incorporated an element directly addressing equity into the rubric that would be used to evaluate any proposals submitted to the County for the use of the funds.

Feedback from the Public (Principle 5)

The Workgroup aggressively sought feedback from the public and affected communities on how to spend the money. The Rock County Public Health Department developed a survey and solicited responses through word-of-mouth, social media, email, and advertising. Over 250 people completed the survey.

Additionally, the Health Department held two listening sessions with the public, including one that was specifically reserved for people with lived experience and their families. Finally, the Department held informal interviews with community members who worked directly with people who use drugs. 


A hallmark of Colorado’s approach has been the early involvement of the Colorado Office of the Attorney General with a range of governmental and non-profit organizations, including the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, the Colorado Health Institute, Colorado Counties, Inc., and the Colorado Municipal League

The Colorado Health Institute and the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention began planning in earnest with the 2019 release of the Colorado Opioid Crisis Response Blueprint: A Guide for Opioid Settlement Investments. A key component of Colorado’s strategy has been the development of the Colorado Opioid Settlement Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which provided the framework for the disbursement of opioid settlement funds to 19 regions, local governments, an infrastructure fund, and a state fund.s

Overall, Colorado’s approach has been well-aligned with the opioid litigation principles:

Using Evidence to Guide Recommendations (Principle 2)

The Colorado Opioid Crisis Response Blueprint and the Colorado Opioid Settlement MOU contain a detailed roadmap of evidence-based strategies that Colorado regions can use to address the opioid epidemic. 

Colorado leaders recognized the need to tailor this information to different levels of government and assist them in their decision-making process. 

  • The Office of the Attorney General worked with subject matter experts on a guide for local leaders on evidence-based strategies that could be implemented with the funds. 
  • The Office of the Attorney General provided money for facilitators to help frontier and rural regions prepare for the arrival of the funds and use them in evidence-based ways.
  • The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention provided consultation services to guide various regions in setting up regional boards and preparing plans for use of settlement funds, aligned with allowable uses related to prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery strategies.
  • The Office of the Attorney General hosted the Colorado Opioid Abatement Conference for state and local policymakers, as well as the general public, to learn about effective, evidence-based approaches to addressing substance use disorder. 

Policy implementation (Principle 2)

Recognizing that the right policies needed to be in place to make sure that funds could be used to support evidence-based interventions, the Colorado legislature passed over 80 policies related to the opioid epidemic from 2018-2022, related to prevention, treatment, harm reduction, recovery and alternative criminal justice responses. In 2019, the legislature established the Opioid Crisis Recovery Funds Advisory Committee, which works with the Office of the Attorney General on the use of settlement funds. 

These bills will make it easier for the opioid litigation money to be spent in ways that will save the most lives.

Develop a fair and transparent process (Principle 5)

From the beginning, Colorado engaged local organizations and individuals to set up a decision-making process that is open and inclusive. The 19 regional advisory councils, as well as the Colorado Opioid Abatement Council and the Opioid Crisis Recovery Funds Advisory Committee, have diverse representation including subject matter experts and people with lived experience. 

All state-level meetings are open to the public and streamed virtually with meeting agendas and materials posted on the Attorney General’s website. State and regional meetings also follow Colorado Open Meetings and the Colorado Open Records Act. The state’s commitment to transparency has also led to the creation of a state dashboard of funding allocations so that all funding decisions at the state and regional level can be tracked by the public. 

Rock County and Colorado’s incorporation of the Opioid Litigation Principles into their planning efforts will help them use the dollars in ways that will save the most lives. We look forward to seeing the specific programs that they choose to implement. 

Know another state or local government who should be recognized next quarter? Submit your nominations here by March 31!