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Principles Coalition Announces Quarter 3 Award Winner

October 19, 2023

The Principles coalition is excited to announce the recipient of the Award for Excellence in the Application of the Opioid Litigation Principles for the 3rd Quarter of 2023: the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority. These quarterly awards are based on a set of evidence-based guidelines developed by faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, known as the Principles. The award is designated by a committee use opioid settlement funds effectively and equitably.

The Excellence Awards were launched in the first quarter of 2023. Previous winners include Rock County, WI, states of Colorado, Rhode Island, and North Carolina.

More than 670,000 people in the U.S. fatally overdosed from prescription and illicit opioids between 1999 and 2021. As the crisis deepened, states and localities filed lawsuits against drug manufacturers, pharmaceutical distributors, and pharmacies for their role in these deaths and other harms. Funds from litigation settlements are directing billions of dollars to states and localities to combat the opioid overdose crisis.

To guide states and localities in spending the money from these settlements, faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health worked with collaborators across the country to create the Principles for the Use of Funds from the Opioid Litigation. Announced in January 2021, the Principles have been endorsed by more than 60 organizations across the U.S.

The Principles are:

  • Principle 1: Spend the money to save lives
  • Principle 2: Use evidence to guide spending
  • Principle 3: Invest in youth prevention
  • Principle 4: Focus on racial equity
  • Principle 5: Develop a fair and transparent process for deciding where to spend the funding

Details about how to apply the Principles and other resources for effective settlement spending are available on their website: here.

To recognize jurisdictions and encourage broad use of the Principles, a coalition of endorsing organizations launched the Excellence in the Application of the Opioid Litigation Principles Award. The quarterly awards recognize jurisdictions that have demonstrated rigorous application of the Principles in their decision-making process, including a focus on evidence, equity, and transparency. A committee drawn from organizations that have endorsed the Principles, including representatives from the Bloomberg School, Shatterproof, Yale Program of Addiction Medicine, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, and Partnership to End Addiction, reviewed this quarter’s applications.

The reviewers noted Virginia’s incorporation of the Principles throughout their opioid settlement planning. The Commonwealth and its local jurisdictions signed a Memorandum of Agreement that created the Virginia Opioid Abatement Fund and the Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority to oversee settlement funds and ensure settlement spending meets their outlined Gold Standard. This Gold Standard ensures dollars are used toward abatement and saving lives (Principle 1), requires the use of data and evidence to guide decisions (Principle 2), prioritizes prevention (Principle 3), focuses on criminal justice diversion (Principle 4), and requires full public disclosure (Principle 5).

Virginia’s Opioid Abatement Authority also developed three initiatives to assist localities across the state with implementing the Principles. First, the Authority has created a voluntary incentive to cities and counties that agree to meet the Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority’s Gold Standard in the use of opioid settlement funds. Cities and counties that commit to only use their funds for abatement purposes are eligible to receive 25% additional abatement funding from the Authority. Secondly, the Authority requires all grant applicants to commit to providing performance measures related to their use of the funds. Those measures are similar to measures used by Virginia’s Medicaid agency; this will allow analysis statewide of how effectively the grant funds are being used toward the opioid crisis from an outcome standpoint. Finally, the Authority has launched an “Abatement Academy” that targets local government leaders to promote awareness of the five Principles and to provide best practice examples under each principle. The 2023 Academy consists of twice-monthly live webinars with various presenters, offered free to participants.

“Virginia didn’t ask to be at the epicenter of the opioid crisis, but we were,” noted State Senator Todd Pillion, chairman of the OAA Board of Directors. “Now we are committed to be a national leader in bringing the crisis to an end. We are grateful to receive this award from the Principles Coalition because it recognizes the substantial efforts Virginia has made to save lives, restore families, and help communities heal.”

Additionally, the Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority has actively worked to encourage information sharing between jurisdictions about best practices through the Abatement Academy. As of June 2023, the Abatement Authority’s Board of Directors has awarded nearly $23 million to 76 cities/counties and another $11 million in funding to state agencies.

For additional details on Virginia, visit Virginia’s Opioid Abatement Authority’s website at 

Nominations are currently being accepted from or on behalf of state or local governments that demonstrate robust application of the Principles. Submit nominations here. The deadline for the next quarter is November 30, 2023.