On Tuesday, October 19th, the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan asking that he intervene to ensure local governments receive a fair share of the state’s recent opioid settlement.
Altogether, the Commissioners request “a split of proceeds that gives 85% to localities and 15% to the state.” Moreover, they argue against requiring already overburdened local governments, especially “rural and outer suburban counties and localities,” to apply for any settlement funds available to them.
In their letter, the St. Mary’s County Commissioners reference a recent Baltimore Sun piece by former Maryland Delegate D. Bruce Poole and attorney Cheryl Priest Ainsworth requesting “robust discussions with local stakeholders” regarding how settlement funds should be appropriated. According to the piece, several states including North Carolina and Wisconsin have negotiated settlement terms with local subdivisions to arrive at more equitable settlement distributions favoring the latter:
The rationale has been straightforward: opioids have caused most of their damage at the local level. In Maryland, this is certainly true. The real damage of opioid abuse — beyond that to individuals and their families — has been an overwhelming impact on schools, police, fire, rescue, detention centers, health departments, social services and local neighborhoods.
A comprehensive account of how opioids have specifically impacted St. Mary’s is also
included in the Commissioners’ letter:
St. Mary’s County has been dealing with the opioid epidemic since 2008. It has cost us tremendously relative to the diversion of funds from other public programs and improvements and the diversion of staffing and policing to address the fallout from the epidemic. The County has been a litigant in the national litigation multi-district litigation (MDL) 2804 since July 2018 and our administrative staff, department heads, Sheriff’s Office, Detention Center staff, local judiciary, Health Department Health Officer and Social Services’ Director, and other County leaders have given countless hours in the collection of opioid-related data and in working with our attorneys to in order to prepare our case.