The city of Laramie has signed onto a settlement with major drug manufacturers and distributors that will bring money to Wyoming, the city and Albany County to help combat a nationwide opioid crisis.
City officials have yet to decide where to spend Laramie’s share of the money, but permissible uses would be for public safety, first response and addiction treatment, said City Manager Janine Jordan.
“If you talk to our police chief, (he’ll) affirm most of the crime they see is tied to alcohol and drugs,” Jordan said. “Opioid addiction has an impact in Laramie.”
The settlement outlines possible uses for the money as “opioid abatement purposes,” which includes treatment, prevention and other strategies.
This could include training for health care professionals, education programs to prevent overprescribing, first responder training and research.
“Being able to deal with (opioid) mitigation upfront will be a good thing for Laramie,” Jordan said.
An intergovernmental committee will meet to discuss the best uses of the money and make a recommendation to the Laramie City Council. At that time, the public will have an opportunity to comment, Jordan said.
There isn’t yet a timeline for when this will happen.
The settlement is part of a global class-action lawsuit against drug distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, which will dole out a maximum amount of $21 billion over 18 years. Janssen, part of Johnson & Johnson, will pay a maximum of $5 billion over nine years.
The state of Wyoming will receive a portion of this money, and 65% of the allocation will go to local governments with 35% for the state.
Albany County is set to receive 1.63% of the state money, which will amount to $466,180. The city of Laramie’s estimated share is 3.42%, coming to $978,120.
The percentage each local government receives was assessed based on the estimated number of people addicted to opioids, the number of overdose deaths and the amount of opioids prescribed in each region.
All Wyoming counties and any municipality with a population of more than 10,000 people had an opportunity to agree to the settlement by Jan. 2.
The city signed the settlement because it doesn’t have the money to file its own lawsuit against the drug companies, Jordan said.
In 2020, Albany County had an opioid prescription dispensing rate of 24.9 per 100 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state of Wyoming had a rate of 46.7 prescriptions per 100 people overall, slightly over the national average of 43.3 prescriptions.
There now are not many resources for opioid addiction treatment in Laramie.
Volunteers of America Northern Rockies offers intensive outpatient services for clients with all types of substance abuse issues, but those needing specific opioid addiction treatment usually go to Cheyenne, said Christin Covello, Albany County clinic director.
“(Because) we’re such a rural area in Wyoming, a lot of medical services are in Cheyenne,” Covello said.