Two counties in Utah won’t join a national opioid settlement

Feb 19, 2022, 8:00 AM

OxyContin settlement...

FILE - This file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/ Toby Talbot, File)

(AP Photo/ Toby Talbot, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is expected to receive millions of dollars from a national settlement with opioid manufacturers. But two counties in the state will not take the money.

According to reporting from the Deseret News, Grand and San Juan Counties are opting out of the $26 billion settlement.

Grand County Attorney, Christina Sloan, says there are several reasons why Grand County did not join the opioid settlement.

Insufficient amount of money

“We are small enough that every single elected official has been personally affected by deaths and ruined lives in our county related to opioid addiction,” Sloan said.

“And the losses go on and on for years.”

Sloan said that the federal money would not adequately address the costs of opioid addiction for those who, rather than dying from it, are battling, living with, and recovering from the addiction.  

Specifically, Sloan estimates that Grand County’s likely distribution from the settlement would equal around $128 thousand paid out over 18 years.

“That’s $7 thousand a year, an offensive gesture. So we risk nothing by proceeding to trial,” said Sloan.

“Using CDC damages models based on population, our damages are as high as $36 million (past, current, future). Using our opioid counsel’s more conservative models based on the County’s actual costs, our damages are around $19 million.

“Even if we only recover a fraction of that conservative estimate, we gain millions more via litigation than settlement,” Sloan said.

Rural Utah loses again

Sloan strongly believes the federal opioid settlement is designed to benefit the defendants of the case first. The state, and urban Utah are second and third.

“The (Attorney General) promised to take care of rural Utah and to acknowledge the unique impact the opioid crisis has cost us, but has failed to do so with this settlement.”

Each county is planning to go to trial on its own, believing it can get more money than the settlement is offering. 

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Two counties in Utah won’t join a national opioid settlement