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What An Opioid Settlement Would Mean For Treatment


The maker of OxyContin has reached a tentative settlement deal with the thousands of municipalities and states that have sued. Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, which owns the company, could be on the hook for billions of dollars. What good can that money do? How could it help the communities across the country that were flooded with the company's drugs?

Laura Jones is a social worker in Morgantown, W. Va. She's the executive director of Milan Puskar Health Right. That's a free clinic that, among other things, helps treat people addicted to opioids.

Thank you so much for joining us.

LAURA JONES: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you just take me into Morgantown and just describe to me the effect that the opioid crisis has had on your community?

JONES: Well, certainly, we have a lot of emergency situations. We've had many, many overdoses over the years. It has affected businesses and their ability to hire people because people have difficulty passing drug screens. It has infiltrated the school system. We have many children that are living with other families or in foster care because their parents are struggling. Restaurants in town have people overdosing in their bathrooms.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So West Virginia is one of the states that has signed on to the tentative settlement. Do you expect to see any amount of that money come to you?

JONES: Well, there are so many entities that are bearing the brunt of the opioid epidemic. We've got first responders, law enforcement, primary care, hospitals, treatment programs, harm reduction programs. So all of those folks are going to be looking for support and help. And we certainly hope that some of that money gets to the grassroots agencies.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you think that the state's attorneys know how to spend this money? I mean, do you think that they know where to send it and who needs it the most?

JONES: I'm not sure they do, and I think that that's something that really needs to be addressed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What would you use the settlement money for? Tell me a little bit about some of the programs that you have had to use because of the opioid epidemic.

JONES: Well, in just 3 1/2 years, we've given out over 4,300 Naloxone kits in order to prevent overdose. We need social workers. We need nurses. We see nursing issues that most people don't see in a lifetime of nursing care. And so it's really, really important that we have people on the ground who are able to work with folks until treatment's available.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So do you think this money will be enough - if the settlement becomes official - to help end the opioid crisis?

JONES: I'm not sure there is sufficient money to bring us completely out of this situation. We had opioids in our community prior to this crisis, but not on the scale that we have now. And that's the issue. Once that's unleashed, getting people into treatment is difficult. Preventing relapse is difficult. This is going to be a long-term process, and we still don't know the answers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Laura Jones in Morgantown, W. Va. Thank you so much for your time.

JONES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.