While many residents of other states have been left in the dark, opioid settlement collaboration and transparency across state and local governments has been a model strategy in Maryland.
According to a Route-Fifty article, experts say making the opioid fund distribution totals public is a crucial step in ensuring the settlements fulfill the goal of saving lives and remediating the crisis. While other state residents are struggling to understand how much money will be coming to their communities for remediation, Maryland published that data in November of 2022, within days of it becoming available.
Those first round totals can be found on the Conduit Street Blog in an article published shortly after the notice came to counties from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). They sent the totals to both the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League as well as posted them on the OAG website. This came after months of deliberation between the state and local governments over the state settlement agreement.
According to the article from last week, some communities are only finding out the totals now because documents from the law firm handling the settlement were turned over. The firm reiterated in their communication regarding the documents that public access to the totals was not a requirement of the national settlement agreement.
A transparency advocate and harm reduction expert in Ohio stated, “Knowledge is power and, in this case, it’s the power to know how much money is available to be used to prevent overdoses.” Legal and political experts watching the settlements say the lack of transparency may unfortunately have to do with political leverage despite research showing the benefits of public trust, confidence, and the application of effort consistent with available mean. Open access to the information lends itself to quick solutions for rapid deployment to keep up with a crisis where the urgency is only growing.