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Determining Best Strategies for Allocating the Pharmaceutical Settlement Dollars to Abate the Opioid Crisis


Tuesday June 11, 2024
2:00 - 3:30pm ET

The crisis of opioid overdose deaths continues to rage, with overdose deaths at an all-time high despite heightened national awareness and more resources than ever dedicated to enforcement, treatment, and overdose prevention. Public health experts and agencies are working to inform the public and eliminate fentanyl from the drug supply; however, misuse of addictive substances and their devastating and costly consequences will not disappear unless we implement a comprehensive, proactive, and sustained approach to substance use and addiction, the most prevalent and preventable health problem the U.S. faces.

There is now an unprecedented opportunity to do this right by smartly allocating the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, which consolidated thousands of lawsuits against some of the companies responsible for the prescription opioid epidemic, as well as other ongoing litigation against responsible parties. Billions of dollars of settlement funds are flowing to states and localities throughout the country. And the substantial body of scientific knowledge and best practices generated to date offer workable solutions.

This briefing features experts in pathways to addiction, authors of key recommendations for spending the settlement funds, and public health solutions that hold promise to turn this crisis around by investing in a full spectrum of responses to the crisis, rather than singularly focused approaches (e.g., only interdiction, prescription regulations, or treatment). Addressing adverse experiences and conditions that are harmful to development and health and providing supportive environments can significantly reduce substance use and prevent escalation to addiction and other health and social problems. Investments in this approach are cost-effective, reducing levels of systems involvement and need for substance use treatment, and forestalling
the enormous financial, productivity, health, and social costs of untreated addiction.

A scoping landscape analysis of how these monies are currently being allocated across states will be presented, along with sentiments from community stakeholders about whether they believe they are being used wisely to address their diverse needs. In addition, a technology has been developed to determine the most effective programmatic approaches to quell the crisis using settlement funds. Examples will be given, including the Alabama Opioid Model that produced an unexpected policy conclusion.

As Americans grow increasingly attuned to the substance use crisis the country is facing, let’s use the mounds of evidence that have been accumulated to make smart decisions and ensure that settlement funds are being heavily invested in prevention and children’s health and well-being, and not just plugging up holes in the addiction-crisis dam.

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Moderator: Diana Fishbein, Ph.D. is the founder and co-director of the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives, Senior Research Scientist at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and part-time faculty at Penn State University.

Diana Fishbein

Expert Testimonies:


Lindsey Vuolo, J.D., M.P.H.

"Why a Public Health Approach is the Most Effective Response to the Opioid Crisis"

Lindsey Vuolo, J.D., M.P.H., is the Vice President of Health Law & Policy at Partnership to End Addiction and leads the organization’s policy work relating to prevention and treatment of
substance use disorders. She develops long and short-term policy projects to address barriers
and identify policy recommendations that are evidence-based, equitable, grounded in a public
health approach and advance the organization’s mission of transforming addiction. Her areas of expertise include: health insurance coverage for substance use disorders; parity implementation and enforcement; expanding access to evidence-based treatment; public-health based approaches to the opioid crisis; adopting an earlier and broader approach to substance use prevention focused on healthy youth development; and protecting youth from the harms associated with the commercialization of addictive substances. Prior to joining Partnership to End Addiction, Lindsey worked in regulatory affairs for a managed care organization. She earned a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, a Master of Public Health from Tufts University School of Medicine, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College.


Ted Miller. Ph.D.

"Prevention and Early Intervention in Nevada’s Opioid Abatement Legislation and Plan"

Ted R Miller, Ph.D., is a Principal Research Scientist at Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) and an Adjunct Professor at Curtin University. He has more than 50 years of experience working as a health economist, epidemiologist, program planner, and evaluator. Decades ago, The Washington Post called him a national oracle on the financial damage caused by substance abuse and injuries. His reputation continues to grow, driven by more than 400 books and journal articles on the incidence and costs of societal ills and savings from prevention. From 2018 until mid-2023, Dr. Miller developed problem severity and abatement planning models supporting government plaintiffs in opioid litigation. In 2011-2016, he was Principal Investigator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s only broadly targeted technical assistance center focused exclusively on prescription drug misuse prevention. Dr. Miller’s doctorate is in regional science (spatial economics), with master’s degrees in city planning and operations research.

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Aneri Pattani, M.P.H.

“Tracking the Opioid Settlement Funds: A Multi-Year Reporting Project”

Aneri Pattani is a senior correspondent at KFF Health News, a national nonprofit outlet covering U.S. health care and health policy. Pattani reports on a range of public health topics, with a focus on mental health, suicide, and substance use. For over a year, she’s been covering how state and local governments are spending their opioid settlement funds in a series of text and audio stories published with NPR and CNN, among other national outlets. She was a 2019 recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. She has a bachelors degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a masters in public health from Johns Hopkins University.


Rayford Etherton

"Embracing Technology to Abate the Opioid Crisis"


Rayford Etherton is the founder of The Helios Alliance, a group of like-minded individuals and organizations with a common purpose: to effectively improve health, safety, and the quality of life using innovative, transformative technologies and methodologies. He is additionally a seasoned professional who seamlessly combines his extensive legal background with cutting-edge data analytics and modeling as the principal at Janus Consultants, LLC. Using System Dynamics as the core analytic tool, Rayford established an integrated practice in 2011 that leverages a top-notch multidisciplinary team of subject matter experts to deliver innovative solutions on a wide variety of systemic issues. Rayford’s work since 2017 has focused on the opioid epidemic and its impacts. Rayford firmly believes that mapping and modeling any challenge leads to better understanding and effective solutions. His approach is marked by intellectual rigor, honesty, and a commitment to transparent translation and presentation. Collaborating with advanced technology teams, high net-worth individuals, and lawyers domestically and internationally, Rayford has successfully resolved disputes and addressed challenges worth several billion dollars.

For more information about this briefing, contact:

Dr. Diana Fishbein, President, National Prevention Science Coalition


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