The Auburn City Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the city to potentially receive hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat the opioid epidemic from a settlement with several opioid distributors.
In 2019, the State of Washington and local litigants filed a lawsuit against several distributors of opioids, alleging their practices and actions contributed to the opioid epidemic Washington state is currently battling, according to city council documents.
“Resolution 5682 is a resolution in regards to the opioid crisis having a huge impact on the residents of the city of Auburn,” Deputy Mayor James Jeyaraj said. “There is a proposed settlement on a lawsuit involving several opioid distributors to address in part the opioid epidemic. To receive settlements, the city council must authorize the mayor to enter into a settlement agreement.”
Washington state and the opioid distributors settled the lawsuit in what is called the “Washington Distributor Settlement,” for a total of $430,249,769.02, according to council documents. Around half of this settlement, some $200 million, is to be allocated to cities in Washington under a 17-year payment plan beginning this December.
However, in order for the settlement to take effect, the 37 counties that participated in the lawsuit and at least 90% of all Washington cities with a population of 10,000 or more have to participate in the settlement.
To receive funds, Auburn has to sign a participation form, an allocation agreement and a memorandum of understanding before Friday, Sept. 23, council documents say. Combined, the documents create a framework for the distribution of funds to the individual cities and permissible uses of the settlement funds.
Once the city agrees to participate in the settlement, Auburn forfeits the right to sue the three companies involved and has to use the funds for approved purposes relating to the opioid epidemic, assistant city attorney Doug Ruth told the council during its Sept. 12 study session.
Approved purposes include everything from opioid addiction treatment to criminal justice intervention, Ruth said. After the resolution was passed, Councilmember Larry Brown spoke to the importance of the settlement.
“I appreciate this resolution. It is so important that we recognize the havoc that has been wreaked upon our communities,” Brown said. “And this is very appropriate and it doesn’t pay for all the expenses that have been placed in families and communities. But it is a start. So I appreciate you doing this work in the city being involved.”
Data from Public Health Seattle and King County shows that opioids contributed to the vast majority of overdose deaths across the county in recent years. Since 2020, at least 1,374 people have died of overdoses involving opioids in King County, according to Public Health data.