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Senate approves Huizenga opioid commission bill

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mark Huizenga’s legislation to create an Opioid Advisory Commission was one of three bills in a bipartisan package approved by the Michigan Senate on Thursday to receive and distribute the state’s share of a nationwide opioid settlement and oversee how those funds are used.

“The abuse of prescription and illegal opioids is an epidemic in Michigan and across our country — deeply impacting our communities and the lives of thousands of families,” said Huizenga, R-Walker. “I am proud to sponsor this legislation as part of an ongoing commitment to do everything we can to help effectively combat opioid addiction in our state, provide people impacted by these drugs the support and treatment they need and increase education to help prevent opioid addiction in our communities — especially by our kids.

“My bill would provide proper oversight of this historic settlement and ensure the funds are being put to smart and efficient use in combating opioid addiction in Michigan.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 104,000 people nationwide died from drug overdoses between September 2020 and September 2021 — a 15.9% increase from the previous 12-month period.

In Michigan, 2,933 people died during the same 12-month period — a 7% increase.

Michigan is set to receive nearly $800 million in opioid settlement payments over the next 18 years from three major pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, along with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

The national agreement is the result of years of negotiations to resolve more than 4,000 claims of alleged misuse and abuse of opioid products and is the second largest multistate agreement in U.S. history, second only to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

Senate Bill 993 would create the Michigan Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund to receive dollars from the national opioid settlement or any future opioid case. It would fund abatement practices and support for opioid use disorder and substance use disorder or mental health treatment and related efforts as required by the settlement.

Huizenga’s bill, SB 994, would create the Opioid Advisory Commission within the Legislative Council to review local, state, and federal initiatives and activities related to education, prevention, treatment, and services for people and families affected by substance use disorders and make funding recommendations to the Legislature.

The commission would provide a report by March 30 each year with a statewide evidence-based assessment of funding used to address substance use disorders and mental health conditions and a discussion on how to prevent overdoses, health disparities, and youth substance use.

The annual report would also include goals and recommendations, sustainability plans, and performance indicators related to prevention and treatment, reducing health disparities, an evidence-based assessment of prior use of settlement funds and the extent to which the funds abated the state’s opioid crisis.

SB 995 would create the Opioid Liability Litigation Act to fulfill the terms of the settlement agreement.

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