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North Carolina cities must make a choice

May 25, 2022

States have significant discretion in how they distribute the funds from the opioid litigation. The settlements with the opioid distributors and Johnson & Johnson require that at least 15% of the dollars go to local governments. However, many states have reached agreements with localities that will give them much more than 15%.

North Carolina has flipped the default arrangement for dividing money between the state and its localities; under an Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) reached between the state, counties, and cities, 85% of the litigation dollars will go to counties and cities, while 15% goes to the state. Overall, the state will receive slightly over $750 million over the next 18 years.

The MOA has a number of provisions consistent with the opioid litigation principles. These include a requirement that localities establish a dedicated fund for the litigation dollars and file annual reports that outline how the money has been spent and the results of the investments.

Cities and counties in North Carolina have two options for how they can spend the new money. They can either use the funds for one of twelve strategies identified by the state as “evidence-based, high-impact” approaches or begin a planning process that includes community involvement. At the end of the planning process they can then implement one of the twelve strategies or choose from a longer list laid out as part of the national settlements. The state has developed resources for each of the twelve high-impact strategies, including a series of webinars.

To assist with transparency related to the opioid litigation funds, North Carolina intends to build a dashboard showing how local communities have spent the funds and the results of the investments. This is in addition to an existing state dashboard that includes extensive resources and county-level metrics assessing the opioid epidemic.