Money from national opioid suit is coming to Kodiak Island

The Kodiak Island Borough will receive $10,000 a year for more than a decade as part of a multi-billion dollar opioid settlement reached with drug distributors.

Now, the borough’s assembly is taking steps to decide how to distribute the funds by creating a settlement fund. 

Kodiak Borough Assembly members voted unanimously this week (Thurs., April 7) to create a formal process to handle the funds. Borough Finance Director Dora Cross made the recommendation.

“Staff believes its best to establish a special fund to put this money in so reporting for the future and transparency can be had for the use of the funds and the money coming in,” said Cross.

Johnson & Johnson and three drug distributors agreed earlier this year to pay $26 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits across the country over their roles in the opioid epidemic. The State of Alaska is set to receive $49 million from the settlement – and Kodiak is one of nine Alaska communities that voted to accept cash from that fund. 

Communities can’t independently sue the drugmakers as part of the agreement – and critics say the money won’t go very far. Kodiak is in line to receive roughly $10,000 a year for 10-18 years, and Cross told Assembly members it’s not clear what restrictions that money could have. 

“We’re not quite sure of the strings attached to this money and how it can be spent,” she said.

A public hearing over long term planning for Kodiak’s share of the funding is set for April 21. 

Alaska has seen a rise in opioid deaths over the last few years – that number has surged over the last year. The state saw a 68% increase in overdose deaths between 2020 to 2021. According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, 60% of those overdoses were caused by fentanyl. Alaska declared a public health emergency over the opioid epidemic in 2017.

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