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Brown County Board approves opioid lawsuit settlement

By Heather Graves

BROWN COUNTY – Brown County is among dozens of counties and municipalities that stand to receive millions of dollars in a national opioid epidemic settlement.

As part of an approximately $26 billion settlement against opioid distributors and manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health and McKesson, the county is slated to receive about $8.16 million over the next 18 years.

According to a resolution unanimously approved by supervisors Dec. 15, the settlement is “an effort to hold the opioid defendants financially responsible for the county’s expenditure of vast money and resources to combat the opioid epidemic.”

Brown County joined the opioid litigation in 2017.

“We have been part of this litigation for the past 4 years,” Corporation Counsel Dave Hemery said.

According to court documents, every Wisconsin county, except for Polk, and 16 cities also joined the litigation, with 70% of the state’s settlement funds being divided between the communities.

Hemery said the funds will be allocated based on population, but also the impact the opioid crisis has had on communities.

However, he said the full amount of the settlement can only be a reality if all participating jurisdictions approve of the agreement.

He said the county could see a payment from the settlement as early as April 2022, with another that same year.

After that, Hemery said payments would be annual.

Hemery said under the terms of the agreement, of the more than $8 million the county is expected to receive, “85% must be spent on opioid remediation efforts, which are broadly defined.”

According to the Department of Justice, some of those potential spending areas include: 

• Expand distribution and training of naloxone, which can reverse opioid overdoses.

• Increase medication-assisted treatment distribution and education.

Expand treatment and recovery services for people with opioid use disorders and other substance use or mental health disorders.

• Create more comprehensive wrap-around services, such as housing, transportation, education, job placement and child care to help people dealing with opioid use disorders.

Land sale

The board approved the sale of approximately five acres of vacant Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport land to the Oneida Nation for $750,000.

The land is already being leased by the Nation, and is unusable by the airport.

“Just going through the documents, it looks like the Oneidas are already leasing this property, and so they are just considering purchasing it,” District 6 Supervisor Kathy Lefebvre said. “I don’t think the airport would consider selling a piece of property that they would feel like they would need in the future. Just like the excess property that was just sitting in (the Brown County) Golf Course. They had no use for it, and said they would never be able to use it. The county should not be keeping property they don’t need.”

Supervisors Pat Evans and Randy Schultz opposed.

“I am not going to support this,” Evans said. “There is no more land being made, so I think the county should attain what we have… It’s just a quick buck, it doesn’t really do anything for us.”

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