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City Council Approves Collaboration with Bernalillo County on Comprehensive Spending Policy for Opioid Settlement Funds

The City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County will collaborate to spend settlement funds more effectively.
October 16, 2023

At tonight’s City Council Meeting, Councilors approved legislation to set the City of Albuquerque’s policy for expending funds the City receives for opioid settlements to address the damages inflicted by the widespread marketing and misuse of synthetic opioids, its impact on our public health and safety, on families and individuals, and the local economy. The legislation was sponsored by City Councilors Tammy Fiebelkorn, District 7, Renée Grout, District 9 and Brook Bassan, District 4.

The Bernalillo County Commission approved a mirror resolution, sponsored by Commission Chairwoman Barbara Baca and Commissioner Eric Olivas, at their October 10, 2023, meeting. The settlement monies are derived through lawsuit settlements won against pharmaceutical companies that inflicted damages through the marketing and over distribution of synthetic opioids. Albuquerque City Councilors, Bernalillo County Commissioners, behavioral health providers, individuals and families impacted by substance use share their demands for use of the funds. The City and County collaborating and strategically spending on programs together will maximize the effectiveness of these one-time funds.

“These settlement funds are in no way sufficient to address the full spectrum of needs for our community,” said Councilor Fiebelkorn. “However, it is a unique and potentially transformational opportunity for targeted spending to address some of these needs in the City and the County.”

R-23-174, establishes that any unappropriated settlement funds and additional opioid settlement funds to be received by the City cannot be appropriated until certain processes have been successfully implemented, unless otherwise directed by the City Council. The process must include: an estimated life of settlement fund balance and timeline; meaningful engagement and strategic collaboration with Bernalillo County; solicited input from the State of New Mexico, Tribal Governments, and other local governments; facilitated public planning process to solicit public input including outreach to providers, impacted communities, and business groups.

Councilor Grout adds, “This funding gives the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County an opportunity to coordinate services for our most vulnerable citizens. We can accomplish a lot more for our community by working together than we can separately. We thank the Bernalillo County Commissioners for partnering with us and we hope this will be the start of an ongoing partnership to heal addiction in our community.”

The bill also prioritizes that the projects assist in preventing, treating, and abating opioid use disorders to achieve long-term benefits to the community including, but not limited to a cross-system coordinated provider network, long-term supportive housing, evidence-based treatment facilities, and treatment provider recruitment and workforce development.

“Opioid settlement monies will be received by the City and County in payments over a number of years depending on the specific agreements,” said Councilor Bassan. “While the range of possible uses of these funds is broad, many of the uses fall into the category of recurring expenditures, so we need to ensure the understanding of the need to commit future dollars to these expenses.”

Commissioner Adriann Barboa added, “Pharmaceutical companies have caused damage, death, and suffering that have impacted thousands of New Mexican families and will have negative impacts for generations to come. This one-time funding can build the system of care our families, businesses and communities have been literally dying for.”

Commissioner Olivas said, “The City and County planning the use of opioid settlement monies together gives us the opportunity to make coordinated and transformational investments in our behavioral health system while emphasizing prevention, intervention, and treatment. The city and the county working in partnership here sets the stage for future collaboration to make even greater strides addressing our biggest challenges, together.”

City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County projects are to be planned with alternate budget resources to sufficiently continue the operations into the future because opioid settlement funds are one-time money. All appropriations from opioid settlement monies for the City of Albuquerque will require City Council approval.