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South Carolina announces plans for opioid settlement funds

The state will receive $360 million total over the course of 18 years.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina will receive settlement funds from its lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson and other pharmaceutical companies. The state will start collecting that money as soon as this year.

These funds are a result of the South Carolina Attorney General's Office filing suit for the companies' roles in the opioid crisis in the state and across the country.

RELATED: South Carolina expected to receive $300 million from opioid settlement

Over the course of 18 years, South Carolina will receive $360 million total. State officials say the first installment of payments is coming from Johnson and Johnson. That money should arrive in the next couple of months.

The federal fund has guidelines on how the money can be spent. At the top of the list, the money can only be spent on efforts toward addressing the opioid crisis in South Carolina. Dr. Edward Simmer is the director of the Department of Health and Environment Control, and he helped develop the settlement guidelines. He said this money will make resources available to everyone for overdose prevention.

“Certainly we’re going to be looking at where is the greatest need, how many people can they serve. But our goal is to make things like fentanyl strips to every person in South Carolina who wants to have them as a protection," Simmer said.

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He added, that families, will receive support with these new funds.

“It goes towards provide psychy and social support for families, helping educate them about how drug abuse works, how addiction works. And what they can do to help their family member combat that.”

Another guideline is in order to qualify for these funds addiction assistance programs or centers must be located in cities with more than 10,000 residents.

Dr. Simmer said the application process will prioritize needs when distributing money and supply.

“A lot of education for families and providing them with resources and also helping families who can’t afford treatment to find affordable treatment options for their family member," he said.

Robbie Robertson with LRADAC, a center in Columbia dedicated to treating addiction said if the center were to receive some of this federal fund it would broaden the center's existing programs.

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“Organizations like ours depend on money from government sources so we’re always looking for additional funding as the need increases. So this settlement is like a landmark case. It’s incredible that this amount of money is coming back into South Carolina to fight this incredible problem," Robertson said.

The large lump sum of money will take nearly two decades to be distributed. Sara Goldspy with the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services said there will be a need for adjustments as the need arises. 

“It’s too early to determine if this will be enough, especially with the funding coming in incrementally over many years. And so we know more resources will be needed," Sara said.

There will be a nine person council appointed to assist with fund distribution.

RELATED: 'There is hope': New resource helping South Carolinians suffering from opioid addiction

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