By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4)– More than 560 Coloradans have died from opioid overdoses in the past four years. Now, through a settlement, major drug companies will pay more than $400 million to Colorado.

Attorney General Phil Weiser said that money will help those struggling with addiction so they can begin a life in recovery.

“Opioid addiction has hurt so many. I’ve had the constant pain of meeting parents who’ve lost young ones from overdose. The pain of communities where this scourge has undermined families,” said Weiser.

“Substance abuse is a problem in the United States,” said recovering addict Jacob Merrion.

Merrion was into all kinds of drugs, including opioids.

“My addiction progressed into the point where I was homeless, I was on the streets on the streets of Pueblo, my family lost contact with me and I felt hopeless and lost,” he told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger.

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He found a recovery program and now helps others with the problems he had. Some weren’t so fortunate.

Weiser, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and other leaders were on hand Thursday to announce Colorado receiving some $400 million from drug manufacturers, distributors and a consulting firm and how it will be distributed throughout the state.

“As we stand here today, we honor and remember those who were lost,” Weiser said as he explained where money from lawsuits is coming from.

  • $300 million from Johnson & Johnson and three major drug distributors;
  • $50 million from Purdue Pharma
  • $25 million from Mallinckrodt
  • $10 million from McKinsey & Company

The settlement money will go to treatment, recovery, and prevention programs.

Paul Scudo runs Step Denver, he told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger, “I hope we are sending a message to the pharmaceutical companies at least in the U.S. that this isn’t acceptable, but money is money and you know what that does.”

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He explained Step Denver will not accept any of the money because it wants to continue to run its program its own way with private donations and grants.

Merrion, who works at Step Denver, sounded optimistic, “As hopeless as my situation was there’s always hope to come out of this and maybe with additional funding there will be more opportunities for people to find recovery.”

Rick Sallinger