FILE - Opioid Addiction

(The Center Square) – Hamilton County is set to receive more than $7 million in the $26 billion nationwide settlement with an opioid manufacturer and distributors as fentanyl deaths increase.

A bipartisan coalition of attorneys general announced final agreements with Johnson & Johnson, a manufacturer of prescription opioids, and the three major pharmaceutical distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, on July 21, 2021. The companies paid $26 billion for actions contributing to the opioid crisis and committed to change their businesses to improve the safety of opioid prescriptions. 

The millions allocated to Indiana are part of the state’s $509 million cut of the larger settlement. The funds will be paid over the course of 18 years. The majority will be dedicated to fighting drug abuse. 

Almost 30 residents died of opioid overdoses through October 2022, 19 of them from fentanyl, according to Hamilton County Coroner John Chalfin. The county has averaged 29 opioid deaths a year since 2014, and county records reveal fentanyl is the leading culprit. 

The Indiana Department of Health reported 2,554 residents died of drug overdoses in 2021, with more than 70% of the deaths caused by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. More than 2,500 Indianans died from opioids as of Aug. 1, 2022.

"We started seeing fentanyl emerge around 2014," Chalfin told the Indy Star. "It was replaced by meth for a period, but then it came roaring back. The victims are all over the place age-wise. I had a 61-year-old, people in their 50s, very young people."

Indiana also received funding from pharmaceutical retailers which will be distributed next year.  The Hoosier state received $219 million in a settlement with CVS and Walgreens and $53 million as part of a $3.1 billion nationwide settlement with Walmart. 

Hamilton County may use its funds for a drug and behavioral assessment center and on programs for addiction patients, according to Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt. The center, which will be set up at a Riverview Hospital location, would improve the referral and treatment process of overdose victims. 

"We'd like to improve follow-ups, outreach, to help patients stay on course, stay clean,” Heirbrandt told the Indy Star. 

The county will receive more than $1 million in its first payment and about $194,000 each year up to 2038.