HUNTINGTON — Despite criticizing its distribution formula, West Virginia’s attorney general is happy with last-minute progress made ahead of a federal judge’s ruling that gave conditional approval to a $10 billion settlement plan submitted by lawsuit-riddled OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.
The settlement was reached between individual victims and thousands of state and local governments and Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family. The Sacklers will give up ownership and contribute $4.5 billion in exchange for immunity from any future lawsuits over opioids, which includes dozens filed in West Virginia.
The current population-based plan calls for the state to receive just 1% of the settlement, about $100 million, as outlined in the Denver Plan.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey had been critical of the settlement in recent years, voting against it, but last week U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain urged states that oppose the plan to try to work out differences with the settlement agreement before a ruling was issued.
Morrisey said one of those differences was over the formula for dispensing the funds being mainly population based, except for a 1% intensity fund that would go to states more heavily impacted by the crisis, like those in the Appalachian region.
In July, Morrisey also criticized the intensity fund, comparing it to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which allocates 15% of its budget for its intensity fund so more resources flow to states like West Virginia.
Another qualm was California opting out of contributing $60 million to $70 million of its allotment to the intensity fund.
Morrisey said all states except California had agreed to contribute to the fund. He called it a “California cash grab” and called on the state to rethink opting out. During the confirmation hearings for the bankruptcy last month, Morrisey spoke during closing arguments and pushed for greater accountability and resources, pointing to the state’s status.
He applauded the judges’ similar concern and California’s reconsideration after the bankruptcy was conditionally approved Wednesday.
“This is great for West Virginia and other small states,” Morrisey said. “There was never a rational basis for one state, California, to ignore the intensity fund and thereby disregard the inordinate devastation that opioid abuse has wrought upon smaller states, chief among them West Virginia.”
Morrisey remained critical of the population-based approach of the settlement.