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Why some Michigan townships are declining opioid settlement payments

Melissa Benmark
Michigan Radio

Some Michigan townships are opting out of money from a multistate, multibillion-dollar opioid settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The settlement comes after the Michigan Attorney General signed Michigan onto the effort to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic.

Half of Michigan's nearly $800 million share of the settlement fund goes to the state, and half gets distributed to local governments and municipalities — if they choose to participate. The funds are disbursed over 18 years.

But officials in some municipalities say they're not participating, because they expect the burden of the state's reporting requirements would exceed the value of their settlement money.

Allendale, Byron, and Commerce Charter Township declined to participate in the settlement payments. Algoma, Antwerp, Genoa and Vienna Charter Township did not complete registration to participate.

Peggy Sattler is the clerk for Byron Township, which qualified for a settlement payment, but declined.

Sattler said the township only stood to get about $1,000 a year over 18 years.

"We didn't feel it would be in our best interest to apply for the grant to receive that money because it was such a small amount that we can do these things on our own without having to do a report," she said.

Sattler said the yearly sum of the settlement was too small to justify the labor needed to submit the state reports.

Genoa Charter Township did not complete the application for the settlement payment. The township supervisor said their portion of the settlement would come to $134.62 per year. Genoa Township officials echoed the sentiment that the labor involved with the payment reports would be too extensive for the payout.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Michigan attorney general's office said the settlements "do not require the local governments to report their spending or use to the state," but there are reporting requirements for certain situations.

"If a local government does not use the money for opioid remediation (as defined by the settlement), they are required to report that to the respective defendant," the AG's office said.

Kevin Green is the township supervisor of Algoma Township. He said that municipality declined the money because there were no nonprofit organizations within the township related to opioid treatment and prevention efforts.

Taylor Bowie is a senior studying English Literature at the University of Michigan and an intern in the Michigan Radio newsroom. She is originally from Owosso, Michigan.
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