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Schmitt urges local action following opioid settlement

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt hosted a roundtable discussion Tuesday in Columbia to urge local government entities to sign on to a recent opioid settlement.

This settlement with Johnson & Johnson and three major opioid distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — could total over half a billion dollars for the state, making it the largest victim-centric settlement in Missouri history.

At the event at Burrell Behavioral Health-Stephens Lake, Schmitt urged the local governments to sign on to the agreement and ensure that more funds get directed to treatment and other services for those addicted to opioids.

Schmitt has been traveling the state warning that without full participation by local governments, the state might lose half of the potential funds.

“There’s no money for the state here,” Schmitt said. “The money that comes in is essentially applied for and goes to local communities.”

This half a billion dollars will be cut in half if cities and counties throughout the state do not approve the settlement by Jan. 3., but Schmitt said he is “fully confident” it will pass “because our interests are aligned.”

“If we don’t get there, that number is cut in half. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars at stake,” Schmitt said. “That’s why we’re working hard to sort of get the word out about what’s at stake and the timeline, so that we can maximize the amount of money that can go to real people.”

According to the Columbia Police Department, there have been 22 known or suspected drug overdose deaths in Columbia this year through Oct. 1. Of those overdose deaths, 50% have occurred since Aug. 1.

In this nine-month time frame, officers have responded to 200 calls where an individual was reported to be experiencing a drug overdose, according to a police department news release. Of those reports, CPD documented that 131 people actually were experiencing an overdose.

An emergency meeting addressing the increase in fatal drug overdoses in Columbia will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19 in the commons at Hickman High School, 1104 N. Providence Road. The meeting will be hosted by the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, Columbia Fire Department and Columbia Police Department.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.