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Johnson County receives 1st payment from opioid lawsuits

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Posted at 9:27 AM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 10:27:37-04

OLATHE, Kan. — The government of Johnson County, Kansas, received its first payment from a lawsuit over the effects of the opioid pandemic. A payment of $113,560.43 arrived July 8, 2022.

The money comes from the McKinsey case. In late 2021, the consulting firm agreed to a settlement in a lawsuit involving almost every U.S. state for nearly $600 million. Defendants argued McKinsey helped Purdue Pharma drive sales for its OxyContin product, which fueled an opioid crisis across the country.

Leaders in Johnson County saw the effects of the opioid crisis significantly increase in 2020. Since then, three key indicators have all seen sharp increases according to the county manager’s office: the number of people dying from opioid-related drug overdoses, the number of court cases involving opioids and the number of times emergency medical services personnel administered naloxone to someone suspected of an opioid overdose.

“On average, a person in Johnson County received NARCAN (the name brand version of naloxone) from an EMS provider almost every day for the past year and a half,” said Maury Thompson, deputy county manager.

As a result of the crisis, Johnson County is involved in multiple lawsuits against consultants, pharmaceutical companies, marketing firms, distributors and other members of the industry. Some lawsuits have settled, but some are still active.

Thompson expects Johnson County will continue to receive payments from these cases over the next 18 years, and the county could receive more than $3 million in total.

The money must be used to combat the opioid crisis. Johnson County is exploring how to use the money for prevention, treatment and education around opioids.

Thompson said early ideas include giving the money to the county’s departments of corrections and mental health to allow each agency to expand existing opioid-related programs.

Johnson County Corrections has an in-patient therapeutic community built to treat adults with a history of drug abuse and criminal backgrounds.

The mental health center operates the Adolescent Center for Treatment, a residential facility focused on substance abuse treatment. It also runs a detox center for adults.

Both programs may consider adding medication-assisted treatment programs to their facilities.

Through the Kansas Fights Addiction Act, Johnson County is eligible to receive more funding in the form of grants from the state, which is also involved in several lawsuits.