Town of Hingham joins national opioid litigation

Photo by Myriam Zilles

December 15, 2021 by Carol Britton Meyer

Hingham, like many other communities state- and nationwide, has been impacted by the ongoing opioid crisis.

Following an executive session Tuesday, the Select Board made the decision to participate in national opioid litigation involving McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and/or Johnson & Johnson, at no cost to the town.

If successful, such a settlement would provide "good benefits over a very long period of time for opioid abatement, remediation, and assistance to both the states and municipalities," Attorney Kerry Ryan said, speaking on behalf of the town during the remote meeting.

Ryan explained that the Massachusetts attorney general entered into the litigation against opioid distributors and an opioid manufacturer -- as have many other states -- "and recommended that all municipalities join in the settlement [litigation]," Ryan said. He explained that as part of the national litigation, there would be no attorney fees to be paid by the town, "so it seems . . . there is no reason for Hingham not to join in this [potential] settlement."

The proposed settlement involves a potential overall $26 billion payout. That said, Massachusetts' estimated share would be roughly $500 million over the course of many years and would be broken down between the state and local cities and towns that participated in the settlement litigation, according to Ryan.

If a settlement is reached, the funds would be used toward opioid abatement, and discussions in subsequent Hingham Select Board meetings would determine the specific use of the funds that would go to the town.

Select Board member William Ramsey called the ability to join the litigation "a real benefit to the town. A lot of the rules regarding how these funds could be used are being worked out by the attorney general's office, but hopefully the money could be used to treat individuals related to opioid use.  I'm excited to sign onto this," he said.

Board member Liz Klein agreed that it "makes sense for us to move forward -- with very little risk to the town -- and the funds could be used to help people in the community."

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