Opioid Tablets

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. 

Opioid manufacturers will soon be charged several cents per pill distributed in Delaware to help fund recovery efforts.

"It will help those people who have already been drawn into the epidemic that really need help getting back out...and hopefully, we can get money in the trenches," said Dave Humes, with atTacK addiction.

Humes said funds raised by the creation of the Prescription Opioid Impact Fund--predicted to be $2.8 million in 2020--will go towards increasing access to the overdose antidote Naloxone.

"The intent always of this legislation was so that we could be providing funding for community access to Naloxone. We've had a lot of money that we've received that goes to uniformed first responders in order for them to administer it, but not distribute it out in the community," said Humes.

He also envisioned sober living homes getting a cash infusion.

"At atTack addiction, frequently, we get calls from people, even though we have our own sober living houses, they're typically full, and other people are trying to get into other sober living facility,, and they have no money to do so. They might just be entering the job market, they haven't received their first paycheck. Once upon a time, the state had a pool of money that they would lend to those people to get into houses. We're already doing that, but this is one area where we could use some of these funds."

Humes also would like to finally see Delaware start up a recovery high school program for high school students combating addiction. WDEL covered the need and efforts to start-up the program extensively. Red Clay Consolidated School District had offered up classrooms inside the Groves Adult Education Center, and former Attorney General Matt Denn had pushed for the initiative, but it never came to fruition due to a lack of funding.

"Not a school, but a program for those people who maybe have been in rehab, rather than them going back to where they got into trouble in the first place, they can go to a public high school for people in recovery, so they can continue their education without being drawn back into that world," he explained.

The new law is another step towards holding drug makers accountable, according to Humes.

"I think, certainly, we want to see some accountability by those people, who in large part created it through misleading statements about the addictive nature of opioids, when in many instances, they've been found guilty of criminal acts because they've misrepresented it. So it's not about penalizing them, it's holding them accountable, for something, in large part, that they have created."

Delaware is the first state in the nation to pass this kind of a fee after three years of lobbying and false starts.

"There was push-back from the opioid manufacturers, certainly, but we tried to educate the legislators about why this is needed, and I believe we did a good job because both Houses passed this bill with an overwhelming margin," he said. "So I think it was a matter of educating people and making them understand some things maybe they didn't realize before about how we got into this mess in the first place."

Minnesota followed in Delaware's footsteps, passing a similar fee, four days after the state Senate passed Senate Bill 34 and sent it to Gov. John Carney's desk. The bill was signed into law Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

The state is still working on a mechanism to collect the fees.

"We want to see that done as quickly as possible," said Humes, adding Delaware's precedent could have national implications.

"It's a big step," he said. "If it drives the discussion with these lawsuits and manufacturers to sit down and really work vigorously at getting a settlement on this thing, then it's certainly been a good thing."

Assistant News Director

Amy Cherry is the Assistant News Director and an investigative journalist at WDEL. She joined WDEL's award-winning news team in 2010 from WBZ Newsradio 1030 in Boston and has received national accolades for reporting.