FRANKFORT, KY. (WTVQ) – Attorney General Andy Beshear has announced that his office is transferring $1.5 million of Purdue Pharma Settlement funds that will support Operation UNITE, a nonprofit serving southern and eastern Kentucky counties in preventing drug abuse and facilitating treatment.
Kentucky reached a settlement with the Connecticut-based opioid manufacturer in 2015 for $24 million over claims of the addictiveness of its drug OxyContin.
As part of the settlement, lawmakers are to allocate funds for public health initiatives; educational or public safety campaigns; reimbursement or the financing of health care services; or infrastructure related to addiction prevention and treatment.
Because the Office of the Attorney General reached the settlement, it is charged with dispersing payments.
In the current biennial budget, lawmakers authorized Beshear’s office to transfer $1.5 million of settlement funds to the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for Operation UNITE in 2019.
Operation UNITE, an acronym meaning Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education, was launched in 2003 by Congress Hal Rogers.
Beshear said drug abuse is the single greatest threat to job growth and to a better life for all of Kentucky, adding that drug treatment is an important part of the fight against addiction.
In the 2016 legislative session, Beshear worked with lawmakers to use $8 million from the Purdue Pharma Settlement to fund 15 high-quality substance abuse treatment centers and organizations throughout the state.
The Purdue Pharma Settlement provided Kentucky with $12 million upfront with the remaining $12 million being divided into eight $1.5 million payments to be allocated based on the direction of lawmakers until 2023.
Lawmakers have directed the Office of the Attorney General to provide $1.5 million to Operation UNITE in 2020 through the Justice Cabinet.
Throughout his three years in office, Beshear has filed nine opioid lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for allegedly flooding Kentucky communities with dangerous prescription drugs. Kentucky now leads the nation in the number of individual opioid lawsuits filed by an attorney general.
Beshear has filed the lawsuits in Boone, Fayette, Franklin (two lawsuits), Floyd, Hardin, Jefferson, Madison and McCracken counties.
Beshear’s office has won fights to keep his opioid lawsuits from being dismissed by several of the pharmaceutical companies. The next hearing on a motion to dismiss is in Floyd Circuit Court from opioid distributor AmerisourceBergen at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12.
Beshear claims AmerisourceBergen is presumed to supply nearly 32 percent of opioids in the state and played a major role in fueling Kentucky’s opioid epidemic. From Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2016, Floyd County pharmacies filled prescriptions for a total of 56,375,642 doses of opioids, with AmerisourceBergen contributing 17,814,702 of those doses, which is 461 doses for everyone in Floyd County.
Floyd County is one of the communities served by Operation UNITE.