by Allison R. Donahue, Michigan Advance
January 20, 2023
Opioid settlement money has been held up in Ottawa County for months, but Attorney General Dana Nessel announced last week that some local governments throughout the states can expect to see funds as soon as later this month.
Michigan is anticipating nearly $1.5 billion from opioid settlements, which includes some settlements that are still in process. Distribution of the settlement money was expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2022, but it was postponed by legal challenges brought in November by the Ottawa County Commission.
Last week, Wayne County Circuit Judge Patricia Fresard granted the attorney general’s request for summary disposition, clearing any roadblocks with the settlement distributions.
“I am relieved the court ruled in accordance with the law, and I thank the judge for the keen attention she paid to this important matter,” said Nessel in a statement. “It’s critical that communities throughout Michigan are indemnified for the harm they suffered due to the recklessness of the opioid manufacturers and distributors. The frivolous challenge by Ottawa County delayed millions of dollars from being put to good use to help Michigan residents [and] our communities recover.”
Since September, the National Settlement Administrator has provided three Notices of Payment totaling about $81.6 million. However, Ottawa County had disputed all three payments, which held up payments to all local governments. The West Michigan county sued the state of Michigan and Nessel, claiming Ottawa County deserves more than the $2.6 million the county is set to receive.
A spokesperson for Ottawa County did not respond to a request for comment.
In a separate issue, Nessel is investigating the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners to review whether it violated the Open Meetings Act earlier this month when members voted on non-agenda items, including firing and replacing department heads, axing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department and changing the county motto from “Where you belong” to “Where freedom rings.”
The opioid settlement funds that the state receives will be directed to the Michigan Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund (MCL 12.253), which was created by the Legislature in 2022. The Legislature also created the Opioid Advisory Commission to make recommendations on the State’s opioid fund.
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