LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas will soon be seeing more than $200 million in funds focused on fighting the opioid epidemic in the Natural State.
The money comes from a national settlement reached with opioid manufacturers and distributors such as Cardinal and Johnson and Johnson and aims to treat and prevent opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
The $216 million detailed in the signed Arkansas Opioids Memorandum of Understanding will be spread across the entire state, split into thirds between the state, counties, and cities.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced the settlement funds in a news conference Thursday afternoon. She was joined by members of local law enforcement, families of overdose victims, and representatives from cities and counties across the Natural State. Rutledge said the unified approach from Arkansas’ leaders is a testament to how fighting the epidemic is a priority to those at both the state and local levels.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Pine Bluff, Bentonville, McGee or in Clay County in the northeast corner,” Rutledge said. “All of us are in this together.”
Chris Villines with the Arkansas Association of Counties was also present, as well as Mark Hayes with the Arkansas Municipal League.
“All these levels of government have come together…not just to try and settle but to try and get money into the state and look at how we can use that money to save lives,” Villines added during his address.
The funding as detailed by the MOU is allowed to be used in the treatment, education, recovery, and rehabilitation of those affected by opioid use, and to stop the overprescription of opioids in Arkansas. It also works to prevent the incorrect use of opioids and educate the public on healthy and safe practices.
Gina Allgaier with Speakup About Drugs says although funds won’t bring back those who have been lost to opioids, including her son, it’s a start at tackling the epidemic at a local and state level.
“We do know that these settlements can be vital in preventing future harm,” Allgaier explained, “and the money awarded in these types of settlements will help.”
Rutledge added that this is just the first step in a long fight ahead and that between future settlements with pharmaceutical companies and state efforts to help rehabilitation centers and law enforcement agencies, fighting opioids will continue to be a priority for Arkansas.