Divided Burnsville City Council backtracks, accepts opioid settlement funds | wild news
A divided Burnsville City Council voted Tuesday to join in the settlement of the nationwide opioid lawsuit and seek $1.1 million for drug treatment and prevention.
About $296 million is expected to be paid to Minnesota over 18 years under national settlement agreements with pharmaceutical distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, and opioid maker Johnson & Johnson.
The Burnsville City Council, opposing provisions of the bylaw regarding opioid prescribing practices to treat chronic pain, voted 3-2 last month to deny the funds.
At a lengthy special meeting on Tuesday, the board voted by the same margin to overturn the decision and join the settlement.
Council member Dan Kealey, who initially voted against the settlement but later decided to recall the resolution for a second vote, tipped the scales by voting in favor on Tuesday.
Mayor Elizabeth Kautz and council member Dan Gustafson also voted to join the settlement, with council members Cara Schultz and Vince Workman maintaining their opposition.
Although there is no spending plan yet, Kautz said she hopes the money will help the city pay social workers at the Burnsville Police Department’s Behavioral Health Unit.
THE MINNESOTA MAP
A plan announced by the attorney general’s office last month allocated three-quarters of Minnesota’s settlement funds to cities in the state with at least 30,000 residents and all 87 counties.
The money is tied to national settlements totaling $26 billion.
Every Minnesota county and city eligible to receive payments signed the settlement agreement by the deadline earlier this month.
Burnsville was the only jurisdiction in the state to refuse the money.
During hours-long public testimony on Tuesday, the council heard stories from chronic pain patients, drug prevention advocates and state lawmakers on both sides of the issue.
Schultz, a longtime advocate for chronic pain patients, led Burnsville’s opposition to the settlement.
On Tuesday, Schultz argued that the Minnesota State Opioid Subdivision’s memorandum of understanding contains language that further harms chronic pain patients and physicians who have faced a long battle against regulations and the stigma surrounding prescription opioids.
Schultz opposes the state’s list of permitted uses for incoming settlement funds, which includes government efforts to “prevent overprescribing and ensure appropriate prescribing and dispensing of opioids.”
The agreement also references controversial 2016 opioid prescribing guidelines written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which correspond to a sharp decline in opioid prescriptions nationwide.
Chronic pain patients and advocates from across the state attended Tuesday’s meeting to demand the Burnsville City Council stand firm against the settlement.
Schultz called the settlement “bad policy,” saying the provisions promote “active harm” to chronic pain patients and prescribing physicians who fear punitive action.
State Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, was among speakers on Tuesday who lost a child to an opioid overdose. Baker said the funds are a step toward repairing the damage and starting a new path.
“We need Burnsville to join us,” he urged, pledging to champion legislation to improve access to painkillers.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Eric Maloney said money tied to Burnsville’s support for the settlement — which totals $1.8 million in local and state dollars combined — would be returned to drug companies’ pockets if the city had refused to participate.
In a statement Wednesday, State Rep. Jess Hanson, DFL-Burnsville, said Minnesota can strike a balance between reducing and treating addiction and preserving the respect and dignity of those who suffer from addiction. Chronic Pain.
“I will continue to fight to ensure pain patients are not left behind at the state level,” wrote Hanson, who lobbied for the recall.