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West Lafayette, Lafayette opt back into statewide opioid settlement

The cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette are choosing to opt back into a statewide opioid settlement following changes to Indiana law.

States and cities across the country sued several opioid manufacturers, distributors, and marketers for damages relating to the opioid epidemic. Last year, Indiana announced it was part of a $26 billion dollar multi-state settlement that would have brought over $500 million back to the state.

But the state also passed a statute that would have given the majority of control of those funds over to the state. Local jurisdictions with similar lawsuits against manufacturers would have been absorbed into the larger settlement and seen less money.

In total, the statewide agreement would have allotted 70% of the funds to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration for distribution, 15% to the state, and the remaining 15% back to local governments.

Eric Burns, corporation counsel for West Lafayette, said the city saw that as a bad deal and chose toopt out. But now the state has passed legislation changing the breakdown of those funds - creating a more even split between the state, cities, and counties.

“35% of the statewide total will go to individual units of government, 35% will go to the state, and then the balance of the 30% is divided up statewide,” Burns said.

The new configuration, according to Burns, was much more agreeable to local governments - and many are choosing to opt back in.

“It was essentially the legislature, in my opinion, listening to local units of government, local units of government being forceful in their arguments, and a compromise was reached,” he said.

Another new aspect of the statewide settlement is a change in how attorneys will be compensated.

“Our original arrangement, as well as the rest of units of government, was there would be an attorney fee of one-third of whatever was recovered,” Burns said. “As part of the negotiations, the state law system that we have opted back into took that 33.3% and changed it to 8.3%. It’s been dropped dramatically so there will be more money available for opioid remediation. That’s also a good thing.”

Burns said the first round of funding from the settlement is supposed to arrive sometime in April. West Lafayette is expected to receive roughly $600,000.

An attorney for the city estimates some twenty other cities and towns that initially opted out have rejoined the state’s settlement, while others have scheduled meetings to discuss opting back in as well.

In a statement, Lafayette attorney Jacque Chosnek said the city felt the legislature had addressed concerns it raised in 2021 about how funds would be allocated.

“The most significant change is a greater portion of the settlement proceeds will be allocated directly to local communities that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” Chosnek wrote.