EVERETT — All of the eligible governments in Snohomish County have signed on to statewide settlements with five pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies worth $434 million.
Half of that total will be available to cities and counties, with the other half going to the state.
It could bring tens of millions of dollars to address some of the scourges of opiate and opioid addiction that have ravaged communities across Snohomish County. It can be spent on giving out overdose-reversing medication naloxone, medication-assisted treatment, supporting first responders and other evidence-based programs and services.
The deadline to sign onto the Attorney General’s Office settlements is Tuesday. The city councils for Everett, Monroe and Mountlake Terrace were the last in the county to approve signing on this week. Each did so unanimously.
“In the City of Everett, we see the impacts of the opioid epidemic every day and it’s heartbreaking,” Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said in a statement. “I’m glad we can hold these corporations accountable for their part in flooding our streets with highly addictive medications. Though this settlement won’t bring back all those we have lost, it will add resources to address the lasting effects in our community.”
Everett was the first city to sue Purdue Pharma, the maker of pain medication OxyContin, in 2017. Other cities across the country soon followed, then other lawsuits against the different commercial pieces of the opioid machine: distributors, manufacturers and pharmacies.
At the time, suing the company worth billions felt more symbolic than realistic, Everett City Council President Brenda Stonecipher told The Daily Herald.
“It seemed like we were this little, tiny town in Washington going up against these behemoths,” Stonecipher said. ”What we didn’t expect was every other city across the nation going ‘That’s a good idea. We’re going to do that.’”
Everett, the largest city in the county, estimates getting just under $4.2 million from the settlements with Allergan, CVS, Teva, Walgreens and Walmart. Other cities are likely getting less money based on their population size.
The statewide settlements are estimated at:
• $50 million over the next seven years for Allergan;
• $110.6 million over 10 years for CVS;
• $90.7 million over the next 13 years for Teva;
• $120.3 million over 15 years for Walgreens; and
• $62.6 million for Walmart, mostly paid in the first year.
It is the latest in a series of settlements related to the opioid crisis after money from distributors came to the state in December.
Everett hasn’t formed a plan on how it will spend its opioid settlement money. It could take shape this year in council committee meetings and by the city’s executive leadership.
Stonecipher said she’s open to spending the money on all of its uses, especially for drug abuse treatment beds and facilities as well as emergency housing.
But Stonecipher said the amount, even if it totals in the millions, is a “fraction of what we would need to be made whole” from the damage done by opioid abuse and addiction.
The widespread abuse of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, has complicated the challenge of recovering from the epidemic.
It’s one reason Everett is considering local and state laws to criminalize public drug consumption. If the state’s attempt at restoring a misdemeanor penalty for drug possession falters, the city could draft its own law to do something similar.
One small positive that emerged from the opioid epidemic has been more knowledge from patients and medical professionals, she said. People generally are warier of taking prescription painkillers now that they know how addictive they are.
Everett’s original lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, which is in bankruptcy court, is ongoing, city attorney David Hall told the council. It is expected to result in additional money for the city.