With millions at stake, Springfield City Council approves participation in opioid settlement

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield’s City Council voted Tuesday to begin the process of participating in the National Opioid Settlement, but some council members say they are unhappy with the proposed distribution of the money Missouri is set to receive.

The settlement was reached in July and means Janssen and several drug distributors must pay billions of dollars to states for their roles in the opioid crisis. Missouri’s Attorney General, Eric Schmitt said Missouri is poised to receive as much as $500 million in the settlement.

During the special meeting on Tuesday, Springfield City attorney Rhonda Lewsader says the settlement is structured so that states had to decide whether to participate, then cities and counties had to decide whether to be a part of the settlement. The amount of settlement each state or area gets depends on how many cities and counties participate.

According to a news release from the city, even though Missouri has decided to be a part of the settlement, the state of Missouri has not released terms for allocating the money. The deadline for participation is January 2, 2022. The city’s legal counsel has advised the city to go ahead with approving its participation agreement before that deadline.

Members of council all agreed the city should proceed with participating in the settlement but expressed concern with the way the money would be distributed. Lewsader says negotiations on the amount are ongoing, but at one point the terms were for the state to keep 85% of the settlement money Missouri received, giving 15% to cities and counties that chose to be part of the lawsuit.

Councilman Craig Hosmer expressed concern about that split, saying local community law enforcement and hospitals are the ones dealing with the consequences of the opioid epidemic. Mayor Ken McClure agreed.

Hosmer says he hopes Missouri’s Attorney General recognizes its local communities that need resources to fight the opioid epidemic, and that he hopes the percentage rises from 15% to closer to 50%. Councilman Andrew Lear shared Hosmer’s sentiments, saying the purpose of the settlement money is to help local municipalities.

The bill passed unanimously. This was an emergency bill and only required one reading.

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