The Cherokee Nation has accepted a settlement of 75 million dollars from three of the nation’s largest drug distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. The money is a settlement from a lawsuit that accused the companies of shipping large quantities of highly addictive pain pills for over 20 years, propelling the opioid crisis and creating a public health emergency for communities across the country.
The settlement is the first of its kind to give money to Native American communities, whose populations, leaders say, are disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis.
The Settlement Money Will Go To Healing
“This settlement will enable us to increase our investments in mental health treatment facilities and other programs to help our people recover,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. told reporters.
The settlement will fund much-needed treatment and mental health services for those affected by addiction. Cherokee tribe members have been involved across the country; in North Carolina, for example, at Cherokee Indian Hospital, the number of patients diagnosed with a drug-related condition increased 300 percent between 2012 and 2018.
The First Of Many Lawsuits In The Process
Like officials across the state, Cherokee Nation officials say they will continue to pursue lawsuits against pharmacies and distributors of opioids. These lawsuits target stores such as CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.
The Cherokee tribe has participated in lawsuits against manufacturers as well as distributors. However, as a sovereign entity, they have the right to refuse to participate in settlements alongside the United States government. The Cherokee Nation includes 390,000 citizens.
Todd Hembree, attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, says drug companies didn’t do much to stop the trafficking of pills or stop overprescribing by doctors or pill mills, even when the drugs were highly addictive Oxycontin or Vicoden. “They flooded this market,” Hembree says. “And they knew — or should’ve known — that they were doing so.”
The lawsuit money in the future will also go toward helping the community heal, building new treatment centers and hospitals, and funding social services to help people struggling in the Native community.