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Eaton County receives $1.5 million from opioid settlement

A person with white skin holds a medicine bottle of pain killers with one hand and the pills with the other.
Eaton County is receiving $1.5 million in an opioid settlement from Meijer Incorporated.

Eaton County is receiving $1.5 million in an opioid settlement from Meijer Incorporated, according to the agenda items from the county's commission meeting on February 6th.

The settlement is part of a national lawsuit seeking to hold pharmacies accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic. Last year, Meijer agreed to a $35 million settlement as part of a multi-district opioid litigation.

In the mid-Michigan region, Eaton County has some of the highest rates of opioid overdoses, according to 2022 data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Trevor Youngquist is a board member of the the Eaton County Board of Commissioners. He says the one-time payment will go towards substance abuse programs.

"The fact that we're receiving this settlement money as a county, I think, is such a huge opportunity to bring some justice for these lives that have been lost and continue to be lost," they added.

According to Youngquist, the county is asking its Health and Human Services Committee to work with the community on specific ways to spend the funds.

"I really hope that the county dedicates to listening to families who have lost loved ones who have been personally affected by this tragedy," he said. "Like, what resources or supports could have been available for their loved ones that we need now to really effectuate change in the present with these dollars?"

Eaton County's Controller and Administrator, Connie Sobie said in an email the county will also work with its local health department in the coming months to figure out where the money should go.

"At this time, the county does not have a plan for use, other than money will be spent toward substance abuse programs," she wrote. "The legal settlements are specific to types of use."

In September of 2022, a summit was held to gather community input and provide an update on the opioid use in the area.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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