standing North Stonington Town Hall

North Stonington Town Hall

NORTH STONINGTON — The town is formally moving forward in a national opioid settlement agreement after members of the Board of Selectmen formally approved the measure at a special meeting last week.

North Stonington First Selectman Robert Carlson and Selectwoman K. Nicole Porter voted on Dec. 28 to approve a motion allowing Carlson to enter the agreement on behalf of the town. Selectman Brett Mastroianni was unable to attend the meeting and therefore did not vote.

The measure was approved as a formality after it was determined that the town’s charter requires a vote by the Board of Selectmen. The board as a whole had previously expressed interest in seeing the town enter into the agreement, which will provide funding to all participating municipalities for use in combating drug addiction and providing treatment and response.

“We are certainly not going to get what the bigger cities do, not even close, but there is still benefit to us participating,” Carlson said. “No matter how small of a town we are, there’s always something that could be done, and if we can help people in town then that’s what we want to do.”

With North Stonington’s participation, the state had received intent agreements from 93% of its municipalities as of late last week. Several area communities, including Stonington, are also participating.

The settlement is the result of a $26 billion national opioid settlement reached with pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson in late 2020. Connecticut was among a host of states that joined the lawsuit, and under the settlement agreement, the companies will provide up to $300 million to the state over the next 18 years.

The settlement is the second-largest multi-state cash settlement in U.S. history, behind the record agreement with major tobacco companies in 1998.

In addition, the case has led to consulting firm McKinsey & Company agreeing to pay $573 million, including $7.5 million to Connecticut, over the next five years for their role in advising Purdue Pharma, turbocharging the opioid epidemic.

Connecticut’s share of the national opioid settlement will begin at $300 million if all the state’s municipalities agree to participate, and will be scaled down from there.

“The hundreds of millions of dollars they will now pay to states will go directly to abating this crisis, but will never bring back those we have lost,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. “Connecticut played a central role in these difficult negotiations to extract every possible dollar for opioid abatement.”

Recently, a federal judge vacated a flawed bankruptcy plan for Purdue Pharma that granted unprecedented lifetime legal immunity to the Sackler family, Tong also noted. Those negotiations were ordered earlier this week to go before a mediator.

The town will only be able to receive so much from this, Carlson noted, but that doesn’t mean the agreement shouldn’t be considered a victory. The money can be used for treatment, programs, crisis counseling and other services that could benefit community residents and will provide options that currently don’t exist.

“If this can serve to help even one town resident, then it’s worth it,” Carlson said.

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