New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced that Tompkins County will receive $1.75 million as part of the state’s lawsuit against opioid drug companies.

“We sued big pharma and now they’re paying for the tragedy they caused,” James said.

The settlement is part of a lawsuit brought by James and other states’ attorneys against drug companies blamed for the deaths of hundreds of thousands due to the current opioid epidemic.

“No amount of money we have received will bring loved ones back, and I hope it can only provide some comfort, some relief to families knowing we’re trying to avoid this happening again,” she said. “We want big pharma to know that you should not be more interested in lining your pockets, and you should not place profit over people and if you do, I will sue you and we will bring you to bankruptcy.”

James added that 2020 was the deadliest on record for drug overdoses and that it is a government’s obligation to provide resources to people who are struggling. She said as part of that belief, and as part of her promise to families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses, the funds received as part of the settlement will be earmarked for addiction education, prevention and treatment.

“I hope we can get to the point where it’s treatment on demand,” James said. “We need to recognize that this is a health crisis. Law enforcement has its role […] but for the purposes of this settlement, it’s a public health crisis.”

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick credited James for accomplishing the impossible.

“I thought [big pharma] was too well-funded, too powerful, too strong, and they have too much of a grip over legislators,” he said. “But [James] did one thing further than just punishing them, she focused on making sure the fruits of that litigation would go back to healing New York state.”

Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature Leslyn McBean-Clairborne agreed and said that she was happy to see big pharma paying the price.

“Finally, someone is pointing the finger in the war on drugs at the right people,” she said. “For years, pharmaceutical companies have rolled with the winds of escapism and capitalism, casting the blame on the users, the providers, the families, and society.”

She added that the settlement money will help provide resources and treatment for many who cannot afford it.

“At a time when people are more wary of government, this here helps restore a modicum of faith that the government will look out for its citizens,” McBean-Clairborne said.

The announcement was held at the Tompkins County Drug and Alcohol Council building on Triphammer Road. The building is still currently undergoing renovations but will house 40 beds and is the future home of the detox and stabilization program. 


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