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Opioid settlement bills could go to Whitmer this week

Melissa Benmark
Michigan Radio

The Legislature is poised to send bills to Governor Gretchen Whitmer that would clear the way for Michigan to get its share of the national opioid lawsuit settlement.

The state is in line to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in the deal made with drug companies that manufacture and market oxycontin and other opioids.

The state House and Senate are expected to adopt final versions of bills that accept the settlement terms, including requiring that the money is spent on things like addiction treatment and overdose prevention and not diverted to other purposes.

Democratic Representative Christine Morse is one of the sponsors.

“This legislation brings justice, healing, and recovery to the state of Michigan,” she said last week as the House was about to vote on adopting the bills.

“We are all familiar with the opioid crisis. Drugs created and circulated by reputable companies, leading to extreme overdose and addiction rates, creating one of the most significant health crises of the last decade.”

There were nearly 3,000 overdose deaths in Michigan last year.

But there was a small number of “no” votes on the legislation. That’s because some lawmakers from rural areas of the state think the process doesn’t ensure communities with fewer people will get the money they need to address opioid addiction.

“Do some people actually think that the only people that are having an overdose is in big towns, and that small towns don’t have an issue?” asked Republican state Rep. Jeff Yaroch from Michigan’s Thumb region.

“Small towns have an issue too. They have police and fire trying to help people, and we’re not helping them. Constantly, we forget small towns.”

He blamed Attorney General Dana Nessel for agreeing to the settlement.

But supporters of the agreement say there’s hundreds of millions of dollars coming, and much of that will go to counties, which will be able to direct funds to rural communities.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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