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House panel wants to ensure opioid funds aren’t diverted to other things

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Tom - Stock.Adobe.Com
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Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control show the number of people who died of drug overdoses in a single year in the U.S. is at an all-time high.

A state House committee adopted two bills Tuesday to ensure that Michigan’s share of the national opioid settlement with drug manufacturers is used to treat addiction and diverted to other purposes.

Supporters of the bills say they want to avoid what happened with funds from the 1998 settlement with tobacco companies.

That money was supposed to help states recoup the Medicaid costs of treating people with tobacco-related illnesses. But Michigan used much of the money for things other than health care such as scholarships and business incentives.

“And I assume what’s trying to be done here is to do better than that and not have this just sit as a slush fund out there for people to take for whatever they want to do that year but have it targeted on the opioid crisis,” said Republican Representative Graham Filler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel showed up to to testify in support of the bills, and she urged lawmakers to act quickly.

“Time is not in our side when it comes to Michigan’s opioid epidemic,” she said. “Some 3,000 Michiganders lost their lives just last year to opioid overdoses.”

The bills were adopted by the oversight committee and sent to the House floor with just one “no” vote.

Republican Representative Steven Johnson said there are already requirements on how the opioid settlement dollars can be spent.

“I guess I would wonder why we would add more restrictions on ourselves of things this could be spent on and let the wisdom of the Legislature as they go through the appropriations process to make that determination,” he said. I guess, why would we unnecessarily hamstring ourselves?”