As more and more defendants settle opioid epidemic-related lawsuits, the plaintiffs are receiving the funds promised in the settlement agreements. These plaintiffs include states, counties, and cities and they are putting the billions of dollars in settlement funds to use in ways that some are finding highly controversial.
In the wake of the many overdoses and deaths caused by the opioid epidemic, there were many entities seeking to hold those who they believed were responsible accountable. This began with the opioid manufacturers themselves but has also expanded to include pharmacies, doctors,distributors, and drug store chains. In each instance, the defendants usually settled while also not admitting to any wrongdoing. These settlements collectively infused hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars into the plaintiffs’ accounts with the stated purpose of solving the opioid crisis or repairing the damage it caused.
Many of these settlement agreements came with well-meaning guardrails to prevent the settlement money from going to non-opioid related sources. However, one particularly contentious use of opioid money has some advocates voicing their discontent: funding the police.
With fentanyl still a concern and the numerous interactions between law enforcement and individuals suffering from opioid addiction, there is some nuance and consideration that should be given to the question of whether the police should receive a significant portion of the opioid settlement money.
On the one hand, if opioid money is being spent to better educate and equip officers in dealing with victims of opioid addiction, that may be seen as an appropriate use of the money. Purchasing narcan for police use and training on recognizing the signs of an overdose are generally not seen as controversial decisions. However, spending thousands of dollars of opioid settlement money on body scanners, squad cars, surveillance cameras, and cell phone hacking technology are more abstract, and some would say wasteful, uses of those funds.
One individual who spoke with the News-Medical team – Brandon del Pozo, a former police officer who now serves as an assistant professor at Brown University – said that the money should only be spent on things that make a tangible difference. According to del Pozo, arresting low-level drug dealers or opioid users “never really made a difference” and should not receive these crucial relief funds. The professor contends that while the police cannot be entirely removed from the equation, a blank check should not be written to allow law enforcement to use the majority of the available relief funds.
Often this controversy falls into a larger discussion about the role of law enforcement and the effectiveness of the war on drugs. For proponents of the war on drugs, the presence of fentanyl on the streets and its perceived risk to citizens justifies increased law enforcement spending in order to crack down on drug trafficking. On the other hand, critics believe that the war on drugs has largely been unsuccessful and instead advocate for emphasizing the use of opioid funds on treatment centers and social services that they believe will provide a more rehabilitation-focused outcome with better community support to prevent relapses.
Regardless of the decisions made, the opioid epidemic has exacerbated the massive holes that exist in our social safety net for victims of drug abuse. Whether the settlement money goes to fund additional police action or rehabilitation and treatment programs, both sides will feel the strain of limited resources in the constant fight against this societal woe.
If you or a loved one have suffered injury or death because of opioid overprescription, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact Medtruth today for a free case review and begin your journey to justice.