Cities in Williamson County sign onto opioid abatement settlements with J&J

Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Central Texas cities are set to receive thousands of dollars in opioid epidemic claims.

In October, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced a $290 million settlement agreement with Johnson & Johnson related to opioid epidemic-related claims.

Round Rock settlement up for discussion

The City of Round Rock is discussing its projected settlement during a city council meeting Thursday.

The city could receive a one-time payment of $475,992. Round Rock City Staff Attorney Stephanie Sandra briefed council members about the settlement during a work session this week.

“There is a multi-page document detailing how the money can be spent, including training programs, treatment strategies, prevention programs and then generally to support first responders,” said Sandra.

As part of the settlement, J&J agreed to pay into a qualified settlement fund, which is Texas’ portion of settlement dollars. From there, 70% will go into the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund. 

Created by the state legislature, the fund is overseen by a 14-member council. Six regional members are appointed by Health and Human Services based on recommendations from local officials. The rest are selected by the governor and other state leaders, including the lieutenant governor and the house speaker.

Williamson County to receive a settlement

The Williamson County Commissioners Court also approved a settlement in the county’s opioid litigation against J&J that will bring more than $314,000 directly to the county this year in recognition of its past opioid remediation.

The settlement also gives the county access to regional abatement program funds of more than $6.3 million.

In 2018, the county filed a claim against J&J and other defendants responsible for bringing an oversupply of opioids into Williamson County.

“We are happy to see money begin to come in, so we can provide more help to residents of Williamson County in combatting the opioid epidemic,” said Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell. “Williamson County was a driving force for the statewide settlement, and we expect this to be the first of multiple settlements with other defendants that focus on Texas and address needs within Williamson County.”

City of Hutto approves funding

In September, during a City of Hutto council meeting, council members approved the settlement money they could receive.

“I didn’t know this was a big issue for us. I feel like with our population, $38,000, just looking at all of the other towns around us…. it makes sense to investigate it a little bit more,” said council member Mandi Villarreal.

There was a formula the state configured when figuring the settlement amounts. The configuration was based on population size and the amount of opioid crime and death in cities across Texas, according to a Hutto city staff member.

Villarreal is calling for a deep dive into why the City of Hutto received that much money compared to its neighbors.

“I am curious to know what the numbers were like to Hutto to determine $38,000,” said Villarreal. “So that we can understand the opioid crisis in Hutto.”

Hutto is considering working with local health officials and neighboring cities to use the money for either current programs or creating new ones.

“This is still in the works as to how all this fleshed out,” said Stacy Schmitt, assistant to Hutto’s city manager. “There are some variables that we don’t have insight to as to how the settlement came about.”

What’s next?

The settlement with J&J is the first in the nation to fund this year. Texas is also expected to receive up to $1.2 billion from three other opioid distributors. Altogether, Texas could receive up to $1.5 billion in settlement money.

Judge Gravell pointed to the work Williamson County is already implementing to combat opioid use disorder in the county. 

“WilCo’s Mobile Outreach Team is gaining national attention through its work to identify those at risk of opioid overdose and provide Narcan.”

Narcan is an opioid overdose reversal medication that can reverse a fentanyl overdose if administered in a timely manner following the overdose. Texas law allows anyone to possess and administer naloxone in a presumed opioid overdose.

“We will continue to do all we can to help families find treatment for their loved ones and to help save lives,” Gravell said. 

Individuals looking to obtain a Narcan kit and training may call the Williamson County Mobile Outreach Team at (512) 864-8277.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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