McHenry County could receive $3.41 million in opioid settlement
As restitution for lives lost due to drug overdoses, McHenry County could receive $3.41 million as part of a nationwide settlement of a 2017 lawsuit filed against large opioid manufacturers and distributors, McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally said.
The money is the county's portion of a global $26 billion settlement agreed to in July by opioid manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceutical, a biotechnology subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and the "Big Three" drug distributors, McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, according to a statement from the law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy.
"No amount of money will ever be sufficient to reconcile the absolute desolation these companies have wrought in McHenry County and throughout the country," Kenneally said in a statement. "This is, however, a first step to holding accountable these loathsome industries that put self-serving deception over medical truth and corporate profit over human life."
The settlement will directly support state and local efforts to make meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis in the U.S., Michael Ullmann, a Johnson & Johnson executive vice president and the company's general counsel, said in a statement posted on the company's website.
"We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue, and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected," Ullmann said.
Johnson & Johnson's contribution of up to $5 billion to the settlement, however, is not an admission of guilt, Ullmann said.
The other companies named in the settlement did not respond to requests for comment.
The litigation is ongoing against remaining defendants, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Allergan and Endo International, as well as retail pharmacies CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, said Sarah Burns, a shareholder with Simmons Hanly Conroy who spearheaded the firm's Illinois opioid litigation.
Communities across the country have until Jan. 26 to sign on for the opioid settlement, which was extended from Jan. 2 due to COVID-19 and other factors, Burns said.
Attorneys negotiated the settlement on behalf of more than 3,000 communities composing the federal opioid litigation, according to a July post on the Simmons Hanly Conroy website.
Under the terms of the settlement, the proceeds are to be used by local communities "to combat the devastating effects of the opioid crisis by establishing critical intervention programs, as well as much-needed treatment, education and recovery services," according to the firm's post.
"McHenry County's agreement to the settlement represents an important milestone as counties across Illinois continue to join by the Jan. 26 deadline," Burns said this week in an email. "But important work remains to be done, and the process will take some time."
Chris Reed, president of New Directions Addiction Recovery Services in Woodstock, said it is "great news" that the county will be receiving a portion of the settlement.
"It is my hope that the funds will be used to provide treatment resources and continued support for those affected by opioid addiction," said Reed, who also founded the sober bar The Other Side in Crystal Lake in 2013. "There are so many people that do not have access to proper care due to health insurance or other financial barriers."
Reed, who has been in recovery since 2009, said he would like to see a fund established for county residents to help pay for treatment, medications, transportation and recovery housing costs.
"At the end of the day, the amount of the settlement could never truly reflect the actual cost of the damages in our community, primarily because that cost was the lives of many people, but something is better than nothing, I suppose," he said.