Plans for CT opioid settlement far better than our tobacco history

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Connecticut is using our $300 million settlement from opioid lawsuits far better than we did with the 1998 tobacco settlement and similarly to our surrounding states, according to a cross-state analysis of opioid settlement details from Vital Strategies. The report gives details on the uses of the funds, who decides, public reporting requirements, and a guide to how advocates can monitor to ensure the money is spent appropriately.

Under a new state law, Connecticut will allocate 85% of our total settlement ($255 million) to a new Opioid Settlement Fund, and the rest ($45 million) will go to local governments. Unlike Connecticut’s tobacco settlement funds, opioid settlement funds cannot supplant, or replace, other sources of funding and cannot be used to reimburse prior spending. The Opioid Settlement Fund can only support approved uses such as needs assessments, harm reduction infrastructure, evidence-informed harm reduction programs, and reporting. Local governments must spend the funds on approved uses such as prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery. However, there are few rules for local spending.

This is a big departure from Connecticut’s decisions on the 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. That settlement and tobacco tax revenue brings $471 million each year into our state. But over most years Connecticut spent nothing from the fund on tobacco prevention. The CDC recommends we spend $35 million each year on tobacco control to make a meaningful difference in preventing the 4,900 Connecticut deaths each year due to tobacco.

The state law also created an Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee which decides on funding application procedures, goals, and objectives. The Committee must approve all disbursements from the Fund. Of the 36 Committee members, thirteen are state and local elected officials. Others include state and local agencies, three providers, and three people with lived experience of opioid addiction. The Committee has regular, public meetings, and publishes annual reports on the Fund’s spending and outcomes. Meetings of the Committee and its subcommittees are public, and most are video recorded. The Committee is tasked with gathering public input, especially from underserved communities that have disproportionately suffered from the opioid epidemic including rural and tribal communities, racial and ethnic minorities, and people who were formerly incarcerated.

Connecticut’s opioid settlement decisions are similar to nearby states. However, public accountability, and consequently advocacy opportunities, vary between states.

Total Opioid Settlement funds
CT$300 million
NY$1.33 billion
MA$525 million
RI$111.9 million
VT$64 million
Allocation of funds
CT85% to state opioid fund, 15% to local governments Cannot replace other sources of funding or for reimbursement
NY46% to local governments, 37% to state opioid fund, 18% to the state Cannot replace other sources of funding
MA60% to state opioid fund, 40% to localities Cannot replace other sources of funding
RI80% to the state, 20% to localities Committee recommendations, but no restrictions
VT70% to opioid fund, 15% each to state and localities/subdivisions Cannot replace other sources of funding
Focus on harm reduction?
CTYes, evidence-based, prevention and recovery
NYYes, throughout policy, includes analysis of how funding advanced harm reduction
MAYes, throughout policy
RIIncluded as an approved use of funds
VTYes, commitment to harm reduction throughout laws
Public reporting
CTYes, annual reports including spending and outcomes for state and opioid fund
NYYes, state and New York City annual reports
MAYes, annual report of all spending, state and local
RIYes, state share only
VTNo requirement beyond the lawsuit