CHARLESTON – A bipartisan House of Delegates group has asked Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to hold funds from the recent McKesson Corporation drug settlement so the money can be appropriated by the Legislature to combat the state’s drug epidemic.
A Morrisey spokesman said that is the office's plan.
Delegates who made the request in a July 29 letter to Morrisey include Mark Dean (R-Mingo), Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), Chad Lovejoy (D-Cabell). Matthew Rohrbach (R-Cabell) and Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha).
“Recently released data shows 38,269,630 prescription pain pills were shipped to my district in Mingo County alone,” Dean said in a statement. “The repercussions from those deliveries are felt everyday by my constituents. The settlement monies received by our state from those who made these deliveries should be dedicated to helping our communities recover.”
The state is schedule to receive $3.2 million from the first installment of the McKesson settlement and $1.5 million annually from 2020 to 2024.
Morrisey spokesman Curtis Johnson told The West Virginia Record that the office has a plan in place.
“We look forward to working with the Legislature and the governor to return the monies from our record-breaking McKesson settlement to the state and ensure that these dollars are used to attack the drug epidemic holistically," Johnson said. "We must attack this problem from a supply, demand and educational perspective, and address the many treatment and enforcement needs of our state.
“No state in the country has currently realized more settlement monies from wholesalers than West Virginia – $84 million to date. Our efforts, which include broad litigation within the pharmaceutical supply chain and against the DEA, are beginning to pay off as prescribing for legal pain pills has declined 51 percent since 2013.
"Yet, our state must still do much more to stop senseless death in West Virginia.”
Kessinger and Robinson made a similar request to Morrisey's office earlier this year. They said they have yet to receive a response or any indication their May 2019 letter has been reviewed by his office.
“Our state has been devastated by millions of pills being delivered directly to our communities, and it is imperative that we use funds paid by these companies to correct the damage they have caused,” Kessinger said.
The Cabell County delegates say Huntington has been considered "Ground Zero" of the state's drug epidemic.
“If we ensure funds that are received as a direct result of the drug epidemic are dedicated to prevention and recovery, we will also be able to move past this epidemic and regain control of our communities," said Rohrbach, who is hairman of the House Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse.
“West Virginia’s first responders have been on the front lines of the drug epidemic — fighting overdose, criminal activity and even risking personal injury in this battle,” Lovejoy said. “My hope is that our Attorney General takes our first responders into account and ensures these settlement funds are used to help them as they combat the drug scourge in our neighborhoods.”
The American Enterprise Institute says the drug epidemic has cost West Virginia $8.8 billion annually.
“We can brag about ‘turning the tide’ on addiction, but that is simply not the truth,” Robinson said. “Addiction has infiltrated every part of our state, and letting millions of dollars be spent on administrative costs is simply irresponsible.
"We urge the Attorney General to reserve every penny of these settlements, so we can truly offer opportunities for recovery to our constituents.”