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Council votes unanimously to receive share of $26 billion payout; one councilor noted addiction's impact on her family

The city of West Linn wants to receive a share of the $26 billion drug companies will dole out to the public sector for their role in the opioid epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.

The West Linn City Council voted unanimously to join the settlement, which is the second largest in U.S. history, during its meeting Dec. 13.

Bill Monahan of the city attorney's office told the council that the state of Oregon is working on how to divide the funds it could receive from the payout. The state estimates that five Oregonians die of an opioid overdose every week and notes that Oregon has one of the highest rates of prescription opioid misuse in the nation.

According to the Lund Report, Oregon could see as much as $330 million from the settlement.

However, for the state to receive that amount, all cities with populations over 10,000, including West Linn, must indicate their interest in joining the settlement before Jan. 2.

The state recently agreed with local jurisdictions (cities and counties) that 45% of Oregon's share will be distributed by the state, while 55% will go to local governments to distribute.

According to figures from settlement documents, West Linn could receive 0.16% of the state's settlement shares, while Clackamas County could receive about 7.8%.

Before voting for West Linn's participation in the settlement, Councilor Mary Baumgardner said she and her family had felt the devastating impacts of the opioid epidemic.

"My mother took her life as a result of addiction, so I appreciate this type of support," Baumgardner said.

Monahan said the council's vote will not bind the city to using the settlement funds in a particular way, but all money must address the epidemic. For example, he noted money could go toward the police department resources for fighting opioid use, nonprofit organizations for addiction, recovery or prevention services or addiction programs run by the county.

Councilor Todd Jones said he would like to see a public process to hear from the community about how the city should spend its share of the settlement cash.

Over the past decade, states, counties and cities have sued pharmaceutical companies, drug manufacturers and pharmacies for their role in proliferating the use of opioids, leading to widespread addiction and death.

The $26 billion settlement West Linn wants to join is a combination of lawsuits from across the country seeking to hold drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson accountable.

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