The Ohio Attorney General's office has crafted a proposal that would put guardrails around potential opioid lawsuit settlement money to make sure the funds are used specifically for the opioid epidemic.
The proposal spells out a constitutional amendment that creates the Ohio Recovery Foundation, made up of a board of directors and a board of investors. The board of directors would be in charge of allocating the money to different resources around the state on the local level. The board of investors would invest some of the money in order to keep a pot of funds going well into the future.
The plan addresses an ongoing concern from several groups that the settlement money could end up being diverted by future state lawmakers for projects not related to the prevention, treatment, and recovery of substance abuse disorder.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost points to the tobacco settlement, which was diverted for other uses.
"This is our way to put it in concrete that this money is going to be protected and used for the thing that everybody wants it to be used for," Yost says.
He says, because of the start of New York's opioid lawsuit, that many states are approaching a window of opportunity where drug companies may be likely to settle. Yost says it's important to send a message that Ohio has a plan for the money in place, and time is a factor.
In order to put a constitutional amendment on the March ballot, the Ohio General Assembly would have to pass a resolution by December 18 (90 days before the March primary).
Kent Scarrett, Ohio Municipal League executive director, says he agrees with the main goal of the constitutional amendment to create a foundation. However, he says there are time constraints and administrative issues that come with pursuing a constitutional amendment.
"We are under a great deal of pressure to have something quickly put together for a statewide plan so that we can react when the courts are ready to distribute any of these allocation funds," Scarrett says.
Under Yost's constitutional amendment proposal, the board of directors for the Ohio Recovery Foundation would consist of:
- One representative of the Governor;
- One representative of Attorney General;
- One representative nominated by the President of the Ohio Senate;
- One representative nominated by the Ohio Senate Minority Leader;
- One representative nominated by the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives;
- Two representatives nominated by the Ohio House Minority Leader;
- Two representatives from among of the 11 non-Metropolitan Opioid Abatement Regions;
- One representative selected from among the 8 Metropolitan Opioid Abatement Regions; and,
- Two persons chosen by the Governor with consent from the Attorney General representing a cross section of the fields of treatment of substance use disorders, social services, addiction medicine and impacted families.