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The city is starting to spend its share of opioid settlements

The city of Eden Prairie is in the early stages of spending nearly $1 million in money to settle lawsuits stemming from this country’s decades-long opioid crisis.

According to the city’s finance department, most of the settlement money the city has spent so far — $40,000 — has been used to pay part of the salary of a social worker embedded with the Eden Prairie Police Department .

Another $13,000 has been used for equipment to test and process seized drugs, and more than $7,400 has been used to purchase Narcan, which first responders take to local emergencies.

Narcan is a brand of medication called naloxone that is used to reverse an opioid overdose. It can be used on overdose victims who encounter police and fire personnel, protecting first responders whose work puts them in close proximity to dangerous drugs like fentanyl.

Future spending could also include stipends that help certain residents pay for treatment for opioid addiction, Police Chief Matt Sackett said.

The spending initiatives, he said, fulfill the purpose of helping people and protecting first responders. “I think that’s super important,” Sackett said.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office estimates that Eden Prairie could receive nearly $527,000 from the settlement with opioid painkiller maker Johnson & Johnson and distributors, and nearly $429,000 more from what the state calls “second wave settlements.” The state says these are maximum amounts, depending on the number of local governments participating, and comments on the settlement agreements.

The money, which will be divided into chunks over the next few years, is to be used for what officials call “opioid response,” including drug prevention and treatment. The city is required to report annually to the state on how the money is spent.

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All told, more than $50 billion in settlement funds from pharmaceutical companies that make and sell opioid painkillers will be paid out over 18 years to state and local governments across the country. According to the state, Minnesota will be eligible to receive more than $296 million during that period. Up to $222 million of that will be paid directly to Minnesota cities and counties.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, U.S. opioid deaths have risen from 49,860 in 2019 to 81,806 in 2022. It’s still a problem: In Hennepin County, with a population of 1.25 million, opioid-related deaths are between 2019 and 2022 more than doubled, reaching a high of 424. The number dropped to 296 in 2023, but it was still higher than the 2019 level.

Sackett says it makes sense to use opioid settlement money to help pay for embedded, full-time social worker Molly Mitley because much of her time is spent helping people with substance abuse problems by referring them to treatment options.

Elina Curran, president of the Eden Prairie-based Chris Wivholm Foundation, said she supports the way the city uses its allotments.

The nonprofit was founded by Curran when her only son, Chris Wivholm, died of a fentanyl overdose in 2018. The mission is to fund addiction research, end social stigmas against families and individuals struggling with opioid addiction, and award an annual scholarship to Chris. name.

“I think a good social worker who knows and understands the disease of addiction is a great asset to the community,” Curran said. “I just hope people know this person and aren’t afraid to reach out. I would say we need more professionals like that.”

Equipping first responders with Narcan is also important, she said, especially because it is needed in higher doses due to the stronger drugs users obtain.

She said helping addicts with treatment costs, setting up “sober homes” in communities and combating the stigma of addiction would also be good uses for Eden Prairie’s opioid settlement money.

The foundation has emphasized working with scientists at the University of Minnesota to highlight the neurological underpinnings of drug addiction. The university, in turn, has developed a graduate program in neuroscience to further that work.

City staff keeps the money from the opioid settlement in a separate fund and annually asks the City Council to approve a resolution on its proposed use. The city is currently in the second year of the program and Sackett says they are looking for applications that will have a positive impact in the long term.

“We have a plan that will last us a long time,” he said. “I don’t think the need for these types of services will go away.”


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