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Overdose prevention efforts continue as lawmakers take funds from an opioid settlement

Arizona's Attorney General is criticizing Governor Hobbs and GOP lawmakers for covering a budget deficit with funds meant for addiction prevention
Posted at 9:24 PM, Jun 17, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. — A big battle is brewing over the newly adopted state budget, as state Attorney General Kris Mayes says she's planning on withholding Opioid settlement funds she says the budget uses to cover a deficit.

Arizona received over one billion dollars of settlement money from pharmaceutical companies which profited off of the Opioid crisis. They put together a plan to spend that money on various programs over the next 18 years, a plan called the 'One Arizona Agreement'.

Mayes says money from the settlement isbeing used to "backfill holes"in the budget, including shortfalls with the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The Governor's office responded to Mayes's statement, saying the money being put into the Department of Corrections budget is being used to treat people with addiction.

“The AG’s characterization of these funds as “backfilling” the budget of ADCRR is not correct, it is funding vital opioid use disorder treatment for a population that is disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic," The governor's office said.

Pima County is set to receive $100 million over the course of the agreement, and partnered with the City of Tucson to create a plan with how to use their allotment of the settlement.

The Governor's office said the diverted funds in this budget don't impact the county or city's allotment.

Currently, local recovery centers are already taking advantage of government programs to help their clients.

Lenny Simons runs Changing Lanes Recovery, and is able to get free Narcan and Fentanyl test strips from Pima County.

Lenny Simons

“These will be like $20 each, and they’re $50 retail in the store," Simons says about the two pack boxes of Narcan nasal spray. "It's really impactful, this saves so many people."

Pima County continues to pay for life saving medications to give to local organizations, but according to the agreement with the city also plans expand services using money from the settlement.

So far they have received around $17 million of their allotment, and outlined multiple goals they hope to accomplish by spending it.

Fentanyl Test Strips

But Attorney General Mayes believes the current decision by Governor Katie Hobbs and the Republican leadership in the legislature could derail these goals across the state.

The attorney general called the budget move an “egregious grab”, she has threatened a lawsuit over the budget move.

You can read her full statement here.

For now the Pima County Health Department is moving forward with their plans for the funding. They say money spent on addiction prevention can save money elsewhere.

“It saves us costs for hospital care, saves us costs on incarceration, saves us costs on crime rates," Brian Eller with the Pima County Health Department said. "Human life is not really something you can put a price tag on."

As the budget battle in Phoenix plays out, Simons says it would be a shame if short-term budget needs took precedence over his clients.

“That money was awarded for the people who died, and I hope we could use that money to save the people we weren’t able to save because of that," Simons said.

Governor Hobbs said in a tweet she was "thankful for members of the legislature who came together and passed this bipartisan agreement."

Hobbs has not yet officially signed the budget.