In October 2021, county judge Ricardo Samaniego announced that the county would be receiving part of the Texas’ Johnson & Johnson’s $292 million settlement funds from the opioid crisis. According to Samaniego, the “settlement allows us to recover some of the money” taxpayer monies spent on the opioid epidemic. According to the county’s press release announcing the payments, El Paso County was set to receive $682 thousand dollars and an additional $5 million would be made available for local programs in El Paso and Hudspeth Counties.

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Opioid companies accused of creating the opioid crisis in America have paid more than $3 billion to settle claims to states for the cost to the taxpayers caused by opioids. Since 2021, drug-related companies have agreed to pay $50 billion in settlements for their part in the crisis.

According to Reuters, the State of Texas has received $270 million to date but has no plans to distribute the funds to local non-profits to address the health crisis. Because the Texas legislature is in session every other year and was not in session in 2022, the distributions of opioid funds was not addressed until this year. The Texas legislature appropriated $22 million for municipalities like El Paso.

Although Reuters reported that Texas had posted an online application for grants yesterday, today the Texas’ link for opioid grant applications has a message that Texas “is not currently accepting applications for grant funding.”

Screenshot, June 18, 2023

Instead of accepting grants, the Texas Comptroller created the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council, ostensibly “to ensure that money recovered” is “allocated fairly and spent to remediate the opioid crisis.”

Texas Senate Bill 1827 created the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council to manage the opioid settlement payments. It is under the Comptroller’s office.

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The Texas Statewide Opioid Settlement

The Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council agreed on an allocation sheet for the distribution of the opioid funds to local governments. According to the allocation document signed on May 13, 2020, all opioid funds distributed in Texas “shall be divided with 15% going to” local governments, like El Paso, and 70% going towards the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund. The other 15% has been allocated to the Texas Attorney’s office.

The document lays out the amounts to be distributed to El Paso.

Of $150 million (15%) allocated to local governments, the City of El Paso was allocated $1.2 million and an additional $2.6 million was allocated to the county for a total of $3.8 million. Additionally, El Paso has been allocated $18 million out of the $700 million allocated by Texas towards healthcare.

However, on Friday, June 16, KFF Health News released documents it obtained from BrownGreer, the court appointed firm administering the nationwide settlements, that until Friday were not available to the public.

The documents shed more light on how the opioid settlements funds are being distributed to local governments.

National Opioid Settlements Through BrownGreer Direct Allocations

According to the BrownGreer National Opioid Settlement documents, as of December 9, 2022, $1.1 billion was allocated to Texas in two payments. Of those funds, $175 million went to the 15% share for local governments. Another $817.3 million went to the abetment share that is expected to be allocated to address the healthcare impact of the opioid crisis.

The 15% local government allocation is part of the Texas Opioid Settlement Agreement that has designated $3.8 million to El Paso. However, other Texas counties received additional funds from the BrownGreer nationwide settlement distributions. El Paso was not among them.

From the Texas agreement, Bexar County was allocated $7 million. Dallas County was allocated $8.5 million, Tarrant County was allocated $6.1 million, Harris County is to receive $15 million and Collin another $1.3 million. These allocations are from the same fund that El Paso’s $3.8 million is coming from.

However the newly released documents reveal that in addition to the funds allocated to the counties above, these counties also received an additional $23.5 million directly from BrownGreer. Money that El Paso taxpayers did not receive.

Total $23.5 million

  • Bexar County: $10 million
  • Dallas County: $10 million
  • Tarrant County: $2.2 million
  • Harris County: $986 thousand
  • Collin County: $328 thousand

The KFF documents also included the BrownGreer Year 3 allocations. The Texas counties that previously were allocated funds did not receive any funds in the Year 3 allocation. However, Texas received another $7.6 million towards the 15% allocated to local governments.

KFF Documents

El Paso is not among the recipients of the BrownGreer direct allocations in years one through three.

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The Walgreens Settlement

In May of this year, the State of Texas also entered into a settlement agreement with Walgreens related to the opioid crisis. The Walgreens settlement outlines two payment types based on how many local governments sign up to the settlement plan. Incentive Payment A allocates a maximum of $191.2 million and Incentive Payment BC places a maximum payment of $181.4 million. Participation in the incentive payment plans is determined by the percentage of local governments signing up. For example, 85% of Texas local government must sign up for payments to begin under the BC plan, with each additional local government signing up increasing the allocation by 1%.

According to the Walgreens settlement document, El Paso has 60 days to participate in the settlement.

Other Opioid Local Government Settlements

According to state officials, there are several other opioid settlement agreements that have been completed or are in process. All require local governments to submit forms agreeing to participate in the settlement. It is unclear if the city or the county have submitted the necessary paperwork in all the cases.

On May 2, 2022, Texas agreed to settle with AmerisourceEbergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health. On February 23, 2022, Texas settled with Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Alza Corporation.

Under this agreement, El Paso County was allocated $2.6 million and the city was allocated $1.2 million out of the $150 million (15%). This is the same funds allocated to El Paso by the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council.

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According to KFF Health News, so far $3 billion has been allocated to local governments across the nation. However, El Paso has only received $21.8 million so far, according to public records.

According to Vital Strategies that tracks community advocates funding from the opioid settlement funds, Texas has access to $1.46 billion from the opioid settlements. Of that amount, 70% is allocated towards opioid abatement funds. The mechanism for applying for the funds remains under development today in Texas and no funds have been allocated. Of the 14 members of the Texas council overseeing the opioid funding represent local governments. The rest are medical professionals and six regional members. None of the council members are from El Paso.

Although the settlement process is ongoing, the case of the recently released BrownGreer documents show that El Paso taxpayers may not be receiving their full settlement funds.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...