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Arizona's getting $549 million from opioid settlement. Will it be enough?

Arizona is getting a sliver of the $26 billion settlement, but advocates hope it will help prevent overdoses and treat those who are addicted to opioids.

PHOENIX — Maricopa County is getting a financial allocation from opioid manufacturers and sellers as part of the second-largest cash settlement ever.

Last year, Arizona joined other states and agreed to a $26 billion dollar settlement with Johnson & Johnson, along with three drug whole-sellers; AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. The settlement will end thousands of lawsuits claiming their practices helped fuel the opioid epidemic.

Arizona will get $549 million, just over 2%, of the settlement. Arizona will split the money between the state (44%) and local cities and municipalities (56%). Maricopa County will get a total of $80 million over the next 18 years.

“I don’t know what you could do to pay for what has happened,” said Kim Humphrey, CEO of Parents of Addicted Love Ones.

Humphrey runs a nonprofit to help families that have someone battling addiction. The issue is personal to him after his two sons suffered from addiction problems. His eldest son's addiction began after taking a single Percocet pill.

“His reaction was that I could not, not have that,” Humphrey said.

It was the start of a nine-year struggle. Humphrey's eldest son became homeless before finally becoming sober.

Humphrey believes the drug companies knew how addictive their drugs were.

“There was a clear knowledge on how dependency-causing these drugs were,” Humphrey said.

As part of the settlement, none of the companies acknowledged any wrongdoing.

Maricopa County will get less than a third of 1% of the settlement.

“I think time will tell,” said Jeanene Fowler, with Maricopa County Public Health. "This is for 18 years, so I think we want to make sure we have a solid plan."

She says this is just part of the money the county will receive to fight the opioid epidemic. The focus will be on preventing addiction and helping addicts recover.

“This money is going to allow us to look at what has already been invested in the community, where the gaps are,” Fowler said.

Humphrey hopes the money will help fund a holistic approach to help nonprofits and clinics save lives.

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