COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that he has convened a meeting with the state attorney general and lawyers for cities and counties involved in the national opioid litigation to discuss how millions in settlement dollars might be spent.
The Republican governor told The Associated Press he expects about 90 people at the Governor’s Residence in Bexley on Wednesday morning.
“My objective is to see whether or not we can come up with a plan that is mutually agreeable for everyone as to how we spend money from the settlements that may occur as we move forward in the opioid lawsuits,” DeWine said.
The event will come two days after the nation’s three biggest drug distributors and a major drugmaker announced an 11th-hour, $260 million settlement over the toll taken by opioids in two Ohio counties, averting the first federal trial over the crisis.
DeWine said one of the things he wants to avoid is a judge or some court-appointed body deciding how that money, as well as money Ohio might receive in any future global settlement, would be spent.
“We’re just better off as Ohioans figuring this out ourselves than having somebody we don’t know impose something on us,” he said. “That just didn’t seem to be the Ohio way of doing it.”
Representatives of the two counties — Cleveland’s Cuyahoga and Akron’s Summit — are expected at the meeting, as well as Republican Attorney General Dave Yost, who is leading a separate state lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry.
That meet-up might be tense. Yost is among U.S. attorneys general still negotiating with drug companies in hopes of reaching a settlement in principle with five companies over the opioid crisis, a deal the two Ohio counties rejected in favor of cutting their own deal.
DeWine said he believes differences between those parties are “resolvable,” and that everyone agrees local communities were hard-hit by the crisis. He said Wednesday’s meeting won’t be about any individual lawsuits or legal strategies, only about settlement dollars. Messages left with the counties’ attorneys weren’t immediately returned.
Mike Moore also will be there, DeWine said. Moore, a former Mississippi attorney general known for leading the successful charge against Big Tobacco in the 1990s, is involved in the opioid litigation.
DeWine, a former Ohio attorney general who filed the states opioid lawsuit, said he doesn’t expect the question of how settlement dollars will be spent to be resolved by the end of Wednesday’s meeting — but it’s “a place to start.” He said there seems to be consensus that the money should be spent on “drug-related problems,” an admittedly broad policy area that can include everything from schools and parks to social services to jails “and on and on.”