Roughly $1.1 billion to help fight drug addiction in Pennsylvania

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LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Part of a $26 billion opioid settlement is expected to help Pennsylvanians recover from addiction, and it could happen as soon as 2022.

This comes as the opioid crisis continues to worsen in Luzerne County.

The latest numbers from the Luzerne County Coroner, show the county is on track to surpass last year’s overdose deaths and more than half of those deaths are fentanyl-related.

A local recovery and addiction center says they could really use that settlement money to help those who need treatment.

According to the Luzerne County coroner, there are 147 confirmed overdose deaths in Luzerne County. Another 38 deaths are pending toxicology. If all are confirmed overdose deaths, that number would sit at 186 and surpass the 179 deaths in 2020.

“Drug and alcohol is a major issue right now. This epidemic was here long before the pandemic that we’re in, right now, as far as COVID is concerned,” explained Jason Harlen, CEO of Wyoming Valley Alcohol & Drug Services.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro met with Wyoming Valley Alcohol & Drug Services to discuss the recent $26 billion opioid settlement.

The settlement resolved claims that the three largest U.S. drug distributors and drugmakers Johnson & Johnson helped fuel a deadly nationwide opioid epidemic.

Roughly $1.1 billion is slated to come back to Pennsylvania.

“To assist with treatment and go to hopeful facilities like this to help the 2 to 3 thousand individuals that they assist each and every year,” said Shapiro.

Harlen says the settlement money would help staff and resources get clients treatment as quickly as possible.

“You know, somebody calls… They just overdosed on heroin a few days ago they need treatment,” stated Harlen.

Harlen says the number of overdose deaths in Luzerne County is a huge concern. A big issue is how cheap drugs like heroin are local.

“Our clients are telling us 2 to 3 dollars a bag. That’s extremely cheap. When I started back in 2002, it was $20 a bag,” said Harlen.

The attorney general’s office says as soon as 2022, $232 million will be distributed to counties across the commonwealth and allocated to recovery centers.

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