Nassau County will receive up to $115 million as part of the largest opioid settlement in United States history, officials announced on Tuesday.
The funds are part of a $1.1 billion settlement between the state of New York and McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, three of the nation’s largest drug distributors.
Officials said Nassau County will receive close to $87 million from the settlement to go along with an additional $26 million in settlements with pharmacy chains CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Walmart.
“While no amount of money will replace the countless lives that have been affected, we can save future lives by expanding our support network and increasing funding for mental health and addiction programs, along with prevention efforts,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement Tuesday.
Nassau County legislators said the settlement funds will be put into a special revenue fund to provide education and treatment to Nassau residents suffering from the opioid epidemic.
“The settlements passed through committees yesterday will be invested in education, treatment and prevention to fight the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic in Nassau County,” Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said.
“By creating this special revenue fund, we will ensure that every dollar coming from these settlements goes to the people that need it most,” Nassau Legislator Bill Gaylor (R-Lynbrook) said.
The agreement between the state and the three companies was negotiated by Attorney General Letitia James in ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic throughout New York.
Officials said an additional $15.3 million is expected to come to Nassau from pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson as part of a $230 million settlement throughout the state of New York also secured by James in late June.
“For more than two decades, the opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on countless communities throughout New York and across the rest of the nation, killing hundreds of thousands of our friends and family members and addicting millions more,” James said in a statement. “While no amount of money will ever compensate for the millions of addictions, the hundreds of thousands of deaths, or the countless communities decimated by opioids, this money will be vital in preventing any future devastation.”
In early July, multiple states also settled a lawsuit with the Sackler family and their Purdue Pharma, another large-scale opioid manufacturer, that resulted in $200 million for New York to combat the epidemic.
Last month, Curran and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder joined to announce the “re-energizing” of Operation Natalie, a countywide effort established in 2018 to combat the opioid epidemic throughout Nassau. The announcement came after a spike in drug overdoses caused, primarily, by the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.
The effort — which included educational seminars for youth and adults throughout Nassau’s communities — helped drive down opioid addictions and fatalities over the last three years before that progress was reversed last year amid the COVID-19 crisis, Curran said.
Countywide non-fatal opioid-related overdoses subsequently dropped 21 percent from 2017’s levels to 217 cases in 2019, while fatal overdoses fell 15 percent to 44, according to Ryder.
But fatal drug overdoses jumped 34 percent in Nassau in 2020, according to new statistics reported by Newsday. There were 287 fatal drug overdoses in the county last year, with 60 suspected overdose deaths that have not yet been confirmed by the medical examiner’s office, the paper reported.
Drug enforcement also dropped because of the restraints of the coronavirus, but the pandemic clearly did not stop drugs from being pushed into communities, Ryder said. County cops made just 294 heroin arrests in 2020, down from 766 in 2017, according to the commissioner.