Rita Obey

Rita Obey

Missouri City could be eligible for up to $209,633 for opioid addiction treatment after joining a settlement agreement involving many communities across Texas, including at least one other in Fort Bend County.

The city council last week decided to opt into a settlement involving the state of Texas and several major producers of opioids, including Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health and McKesson, among others. As part of that settlement agreement, local cities give up the ability to sue the companies in the future, and receive a portion of money based on how many cities sign up.

At least one other Fort Bend County city – Rosenberg – has also opted into the settlement, though several other cities are eligible to do so.

But how much of a problem are opioids in the county? For all of the attention the opioid crisis has garnered in some communities across the country, finding solid data and information locally is harder to come across.

If opioid addiction is a serious issue in Fort Bend County, it’s not clear who’s studied the issue in depth.

“HHS does not currently have staff versed in that arena,” said Rita Obey, communications manager for Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, which typically oversees the county’s response to major health issues, such as the pandemic or other community-wide problems.

Likewise, officials for the Fort Bend Regional Council on Substance Abuse referred questions about the opioid crisis to Access Health, but no one from that organization responded to a request for comment by Monday afternoon. The council also recommended reaching out to the county’s health and human services.

“We know how many people report opioid use who come to our facility for treatment, but that is a very small and not representative number,” said Laura Jenkins, chief compliance officer for the regional council.

D’Neal Krisch, operations and administrative coordinator for the Fort Bend County Medical Examiner’s Office, provided a list of drug-related deaths in 2021 to the Fort Bend Star. Because the medical examiner’s office is relatively new, limiting the data to 2021 is the most accurate depiction of overdose deaths, Krisch said. The office also handles cases for nine other counties aside from Fort Bend County, she said.

Thus far, 26 people have died in Fort Bend County this year because of a drug overdose, according to the office’s data. Of those 26 people, at least 12 of them had taken some opioids prior to their death.

And several more of the cases were still pending drug test results, and could also be linked to opioids, according to the report.

Of the more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2019, more than 70 percent involved opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers of opioid-related deaths in this country have risen dramatically, from about 21,088 in 2010 up to 47,600 in 2017, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Major producers of opioids in recent years have reached settlement agreements with states, municipalities and the federal government for spreading addiction during the crisis.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been urging cities in the state to join the $26 billion multistate opioid settlement that could yield Texas and its cities up to $1.5 billion, according to the Texas Tribune.

But the state and cities will lose money for all the cities and counties that opt out of the settlement, according to the Tribune.

The deadline to opt in to the settlement is Jan. 2.

Data provided to Missouri City shows estimates of how much each city might be eligible for if everyone opts into the settlement. For instance, Missouri City would be eligible for up to $209,633, while Rosenberg could net $126,593, according to city documents.

The list also contains estimates for other Fort Bend County cities, such as Sugar Land, which could receive $321,561, and Stafford, which could get $8,378.

Cities can use money from the settlement to fund treatment tools, including Narcan, which is used for emergency opioid overdoses, and training for first responders, among other uses, according to Missouri City.

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