Recently, it was announced that Staten Island would not be receiving any money from the $1.5 billion settlement that pharmaceutical companies agreed to pay for opioid overdose prevention. This news has left many residents of the island feeling frustrated and disappointed, as they feel they have been left out of the settlement unfairly.
The $1.5 billion settlement is part of a larger effort to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the United States in recent years. The 2021 settlement was reached with five major pharmaceutical companies – Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and Teva – who were accused of contributing to the epidemic by manufacturing and distributing large quantities of opioids.
The money from the settlement is being allocated to New York City’s hospital system. Staten Island, which is “Ground Zero” of New York City’s opioid epidemic, is the only borough that doesn’t have a city-run hospital.
Republican Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo spoke to the NY Post about the lack of funds being sent to the “forgotten borough.” He announced his plan to testify on Monday in Albany to the board overseeing the settlement funds.
In a copy of Assemblyman Pirozzolo’s testimony, he said, “The intent of the New York State Opioid Settlement Fund was never meant to exclude any New Yorker based on their residence or lack of a city hospital. Denying Staten Island residents resources that were specifically earmarked to provide much-needed care and protection is without a doubt discriminatory and likely illegal.”
Staten Island is being left out of the settlement despite being one of the hardest hit areas in New York City. According to data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Staten Island had the highest rate of overdose deaths in the city in 2020, with a rate of 32.2 deaths per 100,000 people. Staten Island had a rate of 37.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2021. In addition, the island has seen a significant increase in the number of people seeking treatment for opioid use disorder in recent years.
In response to the backlash and Pirozzolo’s remarks, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams said “there will be numerous rounds of opioid settlement funds that will support live-saving programs citywide — including Staten Island — as we work to tackle the overdose crisis.”
Pirozzolo stated plans to introduce legislation requiring New York State and the city to provide the borough with its “fair” share of funds from the settlement if steps are not taken by Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Adams.