Want to know what’s happening in your state? This site has all the details.
June 29, 2022
OpioidSettlementTracker.com is a website that comprehensively tracks the progress of opioid settlements. Its founder, Christine Minhee, J.D., says the website is like “Wikipedia, but for opioid settlements.” We caught up with her recently to ask her about the site.
What first got you interested in the opioid litigation and the settlements and why did you create OpioidSettlementTracker.com?
My interest in and frustration with the war on drugs brought me to law school. While there, a professor asked me to co-author a piece about the opioid litigation: “The Cure for America’s Opioid Crisis? End the War on Drugs” (Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, with Steve P. Calandrillo, who is also strangely enough Kim Kardashian’s favorite Barbri instructor). Due diligence for that piece meant that I read too many big tobacco spending retrospectives, which caused me to put two and two together and become rather incensed by the possibility of opioid settlements being misspent the same way. So when I was named a 2019 Soros Justice Fellow by Open Society Foundations, I used my fellowship grant to launch OpioidSettlementTracker.com.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If the worst case occurred and opioid settlement spending started tending the way of big tobacco, I at least wanted to watch it all, document it, and generate a bunch of resources and data for posterity.
The litigation is complicated to navigate and your site makes it much easier to digest. How do you recommend people get the most out of the great information on the site?
OpioidSettlementTracker.com is my love letter to the many community leaders, activists, policy experts, and elected officials committed to causing the most “good trouble” they can using states’ and localities’ opioid settlement winnings.
I recommend first getting a sense of where opioid settlements sit in your state. Has your state (and its local governments) said “yes” to the $26 billion deal? What about Purdue’s? My States’ Opioid Settlement Statuses spreadsheet, which can be found on the Global Settlement Tracker page, gives a birds-eye view of opioid settlements reached by every state with the most significant opioid manufacturers (Purdue, Teva, Endo, and Johnson & Johnson), distributors (McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health), and retailers (CVS, Walgreens, Walmart).
Second, I recommend visiting my Settlement Spending page to get a sense of how your state is planning to divvy up its opioid settlement winnings between state coffers, local governments, and any special funds or trusts created to hold those monies separate and apart from a state’s general funds. This page hosts the true “cheat sheet” re: how states are planning to manage and spend their opioid settlement winnings: States’ Opioid Settlement Allocation Plans. It provides official links to states’ plans and breaks out every state’s state-local allocation ratios, fund allocations (if any), and citations relating to control.
Third, I recommend using that same Allocation Plans spreadsheet to see how your state’s approach compares to others. I’ve more or less designed it as a collection of “receipts” that give the big-picture view of allocation ratios and case studies of localities and states pursuing alternate approaches. (It’s always great to come equipped with rebuttal evidence when you’re too frequently told that “nobody else is doing it your way.”)
What is your advice for those looking ahead to how opioid settlements will be spent?
All in all, I highly recommend taking the time to read your state’s plan from start to finish. I have read every state’s state-subdivision agreement, statutory trust, and/or allocation statute and can state with certainty that engaging with states’ materials is what has most thawed the cynicism I felt as a law student. You might be surprised by what your state’s plan contains — or enraged — but having read it, you’ll inevitably better understand your state’s spending priorities and potentially identify meaningful political pressure points for engagement.
And remember: that $21 billion from McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health (the bigger part of that $26 billion deal, $5 billion of which comes from Johnson & Johnson) will be paid out over an 18-year term. 2022 counts as year one, so effective opioid settlement spending truly will be a marathon, not a sprint. Shoot me a line if your lane could use my assistance! Christine@OpioidSettlementTracker.com
Christine Minhee is the founder of OpioidSettlementTracker.com and co-author of “The Cure for America’s Opioid Crisis? End the War on Drugs” (Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy). She launched her website as a 2019 Open Society Foundations Soros Justice Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington School of Law. She holds a B.A. from Stanford University and is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s Publishing Course.