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Tennessee sees first opioid settlement payments

Lorenzo Gritti for NPR

In a national settlement of over $50 billion, companies such as CVS, Walmart, Jansenn, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and Walgreens will pay for perpetuating the opioid epidemic. Distributed by settlement administrator BrownGreer, Tennessee’s localities could get up to $490 million in settlement money.

Tennessee’s government plans to distribute the settlement money in a “three-bucket” system: 15% to the Subdivision Fund, which goes directly to counties and municipalities; 70% to the Opioid Abatement Fund, a trust fund used for remediation programs; and 15% to the state fund, which is apart of the yearly budgeting process. Tennessee has pledged to use the funds strictly for opioid remediation programs. Programs include making naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, readily available, treatment for the incarcerated population, and clean syringe services.

Although larger cities such as Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville were paid the largest sum by the state, East Tennessee rural communities were paid more per capita. Rural counties such as Campbell, Claiborne, Hancock, Hamblen, and Union were among the highest in the state per capita for receiving settlement payments.

Melanie is WUOT’s interim news director and Professor of Practice in journalism at the University of Tennessee, where she has taught reporting, editing and media entrepreneurship since 2012. Before teaching, Melanie worked for Bloomberg News for 11 years in a variety of cities and roles, from managing the multimedia desk to producing television. In between her journalism jobs, Melanie worked as director of information services at Opera America, putting her M.A. in musicology, from Montreal’s McGill University, to good use.