A national settlement reached last week in the lawsuit filed by governments across the country against opioid makers and distributors such as Johnson & Johnson will mean a payout to Guilford County. 

However, county officials will have to wait a while before any of that money shows up in the county’s bank account. 

In the coming months, state and local governments across the country will have to agree to go along with the current settlement before Guilford County gets that money.

There have been multiple lawsuits filed against those in the opioid industry under the contention that those companies were complicit in propagating the massive epidemic of drug abuse that’s been raging in recent years.  Guilford County is looking forward to getting its share of the proceeds to use to continue to battle the addiction crisis and address its local fallout.

Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne has been very involved in the opioid cases on the state level.  Payne is part of the committee known as the “555 Committee” – pronounced “five-five-five”– which is helping handle the distribution of the lawsuit proceeds as well as other duties in the disputes.

Payne wrote in an email this week, “Under the terms of the agreement NC’s share is about $750 million.  However, in order to get [a] whole entire share, almost all (95 percent) of the state’s counties and larger municipalities must agree to the terms of the settlement.” 

Payne stated that an existing Memorandum of Agreement between the NC Department of Justice and the 555 Committee has laid out the guidelines.  The current agreement gives the lion’s share of the proceeds – 80 percent to 85 percent – to local governments like Guilford County and Greensboro and gives 15 percent to the state. 

A lot of governments have to agree in order for the settlement to in fact settle. Payne stated that the next step is to see if there is “broad-based approval in all states and large local government[s] in every state.”

So far, over 50 local governments in North Carolina – mostly counties and a few municipalities including High Point and Summerfield – have approved the Memorandum of Agreement. 

“I understand Greensboro is contemplating putting it on an agenda for consideration soon,” Payne added.

According to Payne, under the national settlement, Guilford County and other counties won’t see any of the money for at least five months or so.