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Walz signs plan to make drug companies pay for fallout of opioid epidemic into law

ST. PAUL — Drug distributors and manufacturers will be required to help pay for some of the aftermath of the opioid epidemic in Minnesota after Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, May 22, signed into law a sweeping package of legislation.

The DFL governor announced that he signed into law the package that would require opioid distributors to pay fees expected to total more than $20 million. Those funds would be used to provide education and prevention programs as well as treatment programs.

“The opioid epidemic is devastating communities across Minnesota — claiming lives and leaving heartbroken families in its wake,” Walz said in a statement. “This law will help more families access the treatment they need and prevent addiction in the first place.”

The package was years in the making, and its authors earlier this week said they were determined to get it passed this year, even if it wasn't perfect. They pulled together a compromise deal in the final hours of the legislative session and passed it off the House and Senate floors.

The state has sued the drugmakers and if it receives a settlement, that could offset the fees, but not until $250 million has been generated and not before 2024. The plan would also boost funding to social service agencies that have borne the cost of out-of-home placement of children whose parents became addicted to opioids and would establish an advisory council to provide further guidance on the issue.

The number of opioid-related deaths is on the rise, according to state statistics, as are emergency medical treatments for those overdosing on opioids.