The $50 Billion Response to America's opioid crisis.
Plus: Healthy, easy recipes the family will love.
"In the face of adversity, we have a choice: to be overwhelmed by the challenge or to unite and forge a path toward hope and healing." – Anonymous
Thursday. Watching “Painkiller,” my latest Netflix obsession, has been quite the journey. The series is both captivating and unsettling, revealing the depths of the opioid crisis in a way only Netflix and Ferris Bueller can. While there's a touch of drama for TV's sake, it's hard to ignore the pivotal role the Sackler family played by developing OxyContin and pressuring doctors to prescribe the drug to everyone with a pulse and a headache. So here we are — still suffering the effects decades later. So what are we doing about it now? Let’s dive in.
Run from pain. Run towards pleasure.
Painkiller, a fictionalized telling of the origins and aftermath of the opioid crisis in America — starring Matthew Broderick, Uzo Aduba, and Taylor Kitsch — premieres August 10
— Netflix (@netflix)
Jul 11, 2023
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Will $50 Billion Help The Healing Process?
It can be really tough to grasp the true gravity of the opioid epidemic in this country. Earlier this year, the Brookings Institution launched an in-depth paper titled “The opioid crisis in America: Domestic and international dimensions.”
The paper shared some harrowing numbers: since 2000, nearly 400,000 Americans have tragically lost their lives to opioid overdoses. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has understandably grabbed global attention, with its death toll surpassing 125,000 in the U.S., the opioid crisis has silently devastated countless families. In 2018 alone, a staggering 2.35 million Americans were found grappling with opioid use disorder (OUD). What’s more concerning is that this figure might actually be underestimated. Plus, this epidemic hasn’t just taken lives; it has also contributed to tremendous economic, social, and well-being costs for the U.S.
When you read that 400,000 Americans have lost their lives to opioid overdoses, that number can easily pass as just another statistic. That said, I encourage you to really take a second to reflect on how many tragic lives lost that really is — and all of it because Big Pharma knowingly found a way to turn hard-working Americans into the best type of customer — a repeat customer, or in this case, an addict.
On a hopeful note, there is some good news on the horizon. States are poised to obtain over $50 billion in settlement funds related to the opioid crisis over the next decade and a half. This money is a result of settlements with major pharmaceutical companies, distributors, and sellers, including big names like Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma. But the challenge now becomes ensuring these funds are used effectively and judiciously.
It’s not like state governments have ever mismanaged money in the past.
A coalition of over 130 organizations, all actively working to combat the opioid epidemic, is stepping in to offer some guidance. They recently unveiled a roadmap in August, which is intended to be a beacon for appropriately utilizing these settlement funds. The roadmap’s underlying message? Mishandling these funds, particularly by directing them towards criminalization, could exacerbate the opioid crisis and result in even more tragic losses.
The coalition’s roadmap strongly advocates for funds to be invested in public health, housing aids, and community-focused organizations. These strategies are targeted at not just addressing the immediate challenges of opioid misuse but also the broader implications of drug policies. A couple of states are already setting the example for what this could look like. Rhode Island, for instance, has earmarked $2 million from its settlement portion to bolster an overdose prevention center. Meanwhile, Kentucky has decided to allocate $1 million to legal aid groups that lend support to individuals who use drugs.
Other advocates have voiced another crucial point: tried-and-true solutions exist. Criminalizing drug users or resorting to incarceration is not among them. The roadmap echoes this sentiment, urging states to avoid using the settlement money for punitive measures. Instead, the coalition stresses the importance of transparency and inclusivity, particularly incorporating feedback from communities impacted by the drug crisis. The goal is to ensure these funds genuinely make a difference and aren’t misspent in any way.
The key takeaway? The opioid crisis has devastated countless lives, families, and communities in the U.S. Luckily, states have started receiving portions of a $50 billion settlement fund, with distributions expected to continue until 2038. The collective hope is that this financial inflow will be a turning point, allowing the nation to not only address the opioid epidemic more comprehensively but also to heal and rebuild.
It is a long road ahead, but at least we are starting somewhere.
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