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News roundup: Brown announces arrival of opioid settlement funds, grassroots group hosting Blueprint conversations, O’Malley nabs an endorsement

Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown (D). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) announced this week that the state and most of its counties and municipalities received nearly $24 million in opioid settlements.

The money comes from recent installments under consent judgements entered last year from the attorney general’s office with pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the nation – McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen.

The payments are part of $395 million settlements reached last year to resolve the companies’ liability to the state for illegally marketing and distributing opioids before the settlements’ effective dates. The money will be distributed over an 18-year period.

Of the almost $24 million, the state will receive $10 million in the state’s Opioid Restitution Fund for lawmakers to spend for opioid-related abatement programs. Another $8.8 million will be deposited in the fund for grants to 58 “qualifying subdivisions” — local governments — that participated in the settlements. Nearly $5 million has already been distributed to local governments to implement programs to help residents affected by opioids.

“Opioid addiction has been the source of too much pain and devastation in our communities, tearing apart families and leaving a trail of suffering,” Brown said in a statement. “This continuing flow of payments from those who’ve caused that pain will help abate the opioid crisis and provide relief for Maryland’s communities. This is about standing up against the devastation and offering a path to healing and restoration for our communities.”

All 23 counties in the state opted for the settlement.

According to projected amounts from the attorney general’s office, Baltimore County will receive the most at slightly more than $2.8 million.

Prince George’s County will receive nearly $1.4 million and 11 of its municipalities will receive an estimated total of $129,483.

However, Baltimore City chose to opt out of the settlement.

In a statement, the city’s Department of Law wrote the city would receive just a few million dollars a year making those proposed settlements “woefully inadequate in addressing the multi-billion-dollar problem that the City confronts.”

The city filed a lawsuit in 2018 against several companies and those same pharmaceutical distributors that are part of the state’s settlement. The city’s case is set for trial in September 2024.

“The opioid epidemic in Baltimore has caused extraordinary and widespread harm to the City, impacting its citizens on every level. Baltimore has felt the catastrophic effects of this crisis to a higher degree than nearly every other city in America,” the city’s law department wrote. “The City is determined to achieve a resolution that will hold the defendants accountable and force them to meaningfully address the devastating harms they have inflicted on the City.”

Blueprint conversation

Strong Schools Maryland will host a town-hall style event Saturday with Baltimore area residents on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the state’s multi-billion-dollar education reform plan.

The discussion starts at 10 a.m. at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore City where free food, child care and interpretation services are available for those who attend.

The statewide grassroots organization established in 2017 to advocate for passage of the Blueprint legislation will inform residents about the plan, how it affects students and families in central Maryland and connect with members of the Strong Schools Maryland network.

Part of the event will have people split into small groups to highlight any key educational topics such as ensuring each of the Blueprint’s main priorities are equally implemented throughout the state.

The goal will be to compile those thoughts and ideas as part of a Strong Schools Maryland legislative agenda when the General Assembly convenes in January.

Jamal Turner, an organizer for the organization, said more than 50 people have registered so far.

The group held two previous Blueprint discussions recently in Western Maryland and the University of Maryland in College Park.

It will host two more Blueprint conversations on Aug. 26 in Rockville and another online at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 28, which is the same day more than a dozen public school systems begin the first day of school.

“You have to solicit and incorporate the voice of those who are affected,” Turner said. “Each county is different. Each region has a set of unique issues. There are some that resonate throughout the entire state. We want to make sure we are pulling those [voices] up and putting them in the faces of people that can affect the actual change needed.”

O’Malley nabs an endorsement

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents almost 43,000 employees of the Social Security Administration across the country, announced Thursday it has endorsed President Biden’s nomination of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to be the next SSA commissioner.

The AFGE SSA General Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to endorse O’Malley’s nomination. The committee oversees AFGE councils representing SSA employees in field offices, teleservice centers, workload support units, hearings and appeals, payment centers, and quality review as well as AFGE locals representing employees at SSA headquarters and the operations center in Wilkes Barre, Pa.

“No federal agency reaches as many Americans as the Social Security Administration,” said AFGE Council 215 President Rich Couture. “SSA deserves a leader with full authority to implement a positive vision that will simultaneously improve public service and employee working conditions. Governor O’Malley is that leader.”

O’Malley’s nomination is expected to be taken up by the U.S. Senate in the fall.


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News roundup: Brown announces arrival of opioid settlement funds, grassroots group hosting Blueprint conversations, O’Malley nabs an endorsement