Some Calling On New York State To Use Opioid Settlement Funds For New Treatment Programs

States across the nation are beginning to see the first of millions of dollars of opioid settlement funds, but treatment experts in New York are not happy with how some of that money is being spent; CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports.

Video Transcript

- States across the nation are beginning to see the first of millions of dollars of opioid settlement funds.

- But treatment experts in New York are not happy with how some of that money is being spent. CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports from Long Island.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: Sharon Richmond of Northport blames drug companies that sold pain relief to her only child, Vincent D'Antoni, and minimized the risks.

SHARON RICHMOND: I was trying to tell him that oxycodone was addictive and so dangerous, and he would show me this research that denied it. They were saying that it was not addictive.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: She's calling on New York state to turn tragedy into more treatment. The first round of settlements from opioid lawsuits brings $32 million to New York. But advocates claim the money is being spent on existing programs rather than increasing prevention, treatment, and education. Only $11 million is going to new services.

JEFFREY REYNOLDS: The other $21 million went into New York state's general fund to build bridges and tunnels, and to fill budget gaps. And that's absolutely inexcusable.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: They say Albany must legislate that all future settlement funds are used to clean up the mess caused by opioid manufacturers and marketers in an epidemic raging worse than ever.

ANTHONY RIZZUTO: I will be damned if I see $1 go to fixing a pothole. Do we need potholes fixed? Absolutely. That's not what this money is about.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: A spokesman for New York state told us the state spends $1.5 billion annually combating opioid addiction, and all $28 million the state will receive from this settlement this year is dedicated to the fight. Critics say it's a shell game, since it adds little new funding for desperately needed treatment Vincent never got.

SHARON RICHMOND: He was denied treatment the year before he passed away.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: Advocates say they don't trust the process, for good reason. Tobacco settlement billions didn't all go into promised smoking-cessation programs. Now's the time, they say, to lockbox these opioid funds. On Long Island, Carolyn Gusoff, CBS2 News.

- And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths rose above 87,000 people during the pandemic, the highest number since the opioid crisis began.