The Purdue Pharma’s Settlement Must Do More for New Yorkers Who Suffered during the Opioid Crisis

Legislative Column from Assemblyman Joseph Angelino (R,C,I-Norwich)

After 36 years in New York law enforcement, including as the police chief of the city of Norwich, I’ve seen few crises wreak havoc across our state like the opioid crisis. Opioid addiction knows no bounds impacting New Yorkers of all walks of life. We’ve taken significant steps to emerge from this epidemic, but New Yorkers continue to face crippling addiction to opioids. This epidemic has led to people losing their own lives, family members mourning the loss of loved ones and roughly two decades of children born into painful addiction and life-long health complications.

During my time as police chief, I saw first-hand the terrible impact of opioid addiction. Small communities throughout the state and country were contending with higher overdose and crime rates. The rise stressed limited public resources, such as police and fire department budgets, and in my region of upstate New York, many small towns simply don’t have public resources to spare.

We have eventually learned we needed to overhaul our entire system – laws, health care and treatment – in order to overcome the opioid epidemic.

As some may be aware, Purdue Pharma, one of the largest producers of opioids, has proposed a $10 billion settlement as part of its federal bankruptcy agreement, with $750 million being proposed as personal injury payouts to their victims. Much of Purdue’s efforts to aggressively market their highly-addictive opioids have led many to years of heartbreaking struggle with crippling addiction and, sadly, many even lost their lives.

Opioid addiction is layered and complex. As we have learned, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work when trying to help the many victims of this epidemic. I am concerned that the proposed injury settlement does not do enough for New Yorkers, such as providing funding for addiction and recovery programs for the victims. I also believe that careful oversight of these funds will be necessary. I want to ensure this injury settlement truly helps the victims move into a life of lasting recovery and provide for ongoing care. I also feel that other victims of opioid addiction, like children born into addiction from the womb, have also been overlooked and that more should be outlined in the settlement to ensure they are provided with the care and treatment for the life-long impact opioids may have on these children.

 The proposed settlement woefully falls short for these infants and children who suffer from the effects of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). These babies were exposed to opioids in the womb while their brains and bodies were still developing. They need intensive care in infancy to give them the best chance of living a full and healthy life, but many of these children slip under the radar.

I always say in my role in the Assembly that the devil is in the details, and I would say the same applies here. As the settlement proposal is written now, it not only fails to provide ongoing addiction recovery support for those who suffered directly from Purdue’s opioids, but it also is unclear regarding which New Yorkers would be eligible for settlement funds.

I have written to state Attorney General Leticia James urging her to file a formal opposition to Purdue’s proposed settlement as West Virginia’s attorney general has. Addressing the opioid crisis in this settlement demands a comprehensive response. We must approach this with a deep sense of compassion and with the resolve to make the most of this opportunity to get it right for all those who suffered greatly from opioids.

Let’s fight for funding for our community first responders, for our treatment programs and, most importantly, the people and children who have suffered. As we seek justice for the great scourge the opioid epidemic imposed on our loved ones and communities, we must get this settlement right with fair compensation for all.