Family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma in Stamford, Conn., in August 2018. (Jessica Hill/AP 2018)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota stands to collect more than $300 million under a $26 billion settlement among states and opioid manufacturers and distributors, Attorney General Keith Ellison said Wednesday.

Ellison said in a statement that the settlement will bring much-needed relief to communities that have been devastated by the opioid crisis.

Opioids continue to be a significant problem in southern Minnesota. The Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program shows that from August 2019 to the end of 2020, law enforcement in Steele and Rice counties know of 43 overdoses linked to opioid abuse — nine were fatal. Most all occurred in Rice County, but Steele County law enforcement acknowledge the epidemic is growing quickly in their jurisdiction.

The attorney general said Minnesota’s share could be as much as $337 million over 18 years, with significant payments frontloaded in the first five years. The spending will be overseen by Minnesota’s Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council.

“There is no amount of money that can ever make up for the death and destruction these companies caused in the pure pursuit of profit. No amount of money can bring back the nearly 5,000 lives we lost in Minnesota or fully restore the communities devastated in every part of our state,” Attorney General Ellison said. “But it is still critically important to hold these companies financially accountable for their role in creating and extending the opioid crisis, and this agreement does that and more. I’m especially pleased it requires them to turn over data that will help us learn what they did to us, and puts in place controls to ensure that they can never do it again. I will continue to fight to make transparency part of any and all future agreements with opioid companies.

The deal calls for drugmaker Johnson & Johnson to pay up to $5 billion, with billions more from the major national drug distributors. AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health are each to contribute $6.4 billion. McKesson is to pay $7.9 billion.

States have 30 days to sign on and local governments have until Jan. 1 to join. Ellison urged communities to do so. The more governments that sign on, the more the industry will pay.

Last week, the federal government reported overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That estimate far eclipses the high of about 72,000 drug overdose deaths reached the previous year and amounts to a 29% increase.

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