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A bill could unlock opioid settlement money in Oklahoma, allowing millions to be disbursed to local governments

Hal Gatewood / Unsplash

Oklahoma was one of the first states to successfully sue drugmakers for their role in the opioid epidemic, but almost none of that money has been spent so far.

Now, a bill moving through the legislature — SB1275 — could change that.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and other drugmakers settled lawsuits with the state in 2019, agreeing to pay about $300 million total. State leaders promised $25 million of that money to local governments to invest in recovery programs and other services.

In 2020, the legislature created a board within the Attorney General’s office to decide who gets what, but it's been in gridlock since. The dispute: local governments started their own lawsuits — before they knew whether the state was going to file any. They want to use some of that funding to cover the attorney fees, but current law doesn’t allow it.

"So the AG hasn’t made those distributions. They’ve been waiting on this to be passed to be actually able to award those grants," said Sen. Brent Howard (R-Altus), the bill's author.

Howard's bill passed unanimously off the Senate floor on Tuesday, so it’s about halfway to becoming law.

Catherine Sweeney was StateImpact Oklahoma's health reporter from 2020 to 2023.
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