Iowa legislators will enter 2023 session with $19 million in opioid settlement funds

By: - December 7, 2022 6:23 pm

State legislators will have more than $19 million to put toward opioid recovery and prevention services during the 2023-24 legislative session. (Photo by Getty Images)

State legislators will have more than $19 million to put toward opioid recovery and prevention services during the 2023-24 legislative session.

The Iowa Opioid Settlement Fund currently contains more than $19.3 million, according to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. All of those funds come from settlements the state has reached with companies accused of playing a role in the opioid crisis, where pharmaceutical businesses encouraged doctors to prescribe opioids to patients, triggering an increase in addictions and deaths.

Most recently, Iowa was part of the multi-state coalition that reached a $3.1 billion settlement with Walmart for the retailer’s lack of oversight in dispensing opioids. Iowa will receive $20 million from that settlement, and the money must be used for treatment and recovery services for people with opioid-use disorder. Some of the other settlements have similar restrictions on how the money can be spent.

The final decision as to how that money will be spent is up to state legislators, according to Iowa law.

“Resources are flowing in from hard-won settlements my office has reached with companies who caused or contributed to the opioid crisis,” Miller said in a news release. “Legislators have a crucial opportunity to use this money to prevent addiction, increase access to treatment for opioid-use disorder, and save lives.”

Opioid deaths are on the rise in Iowa: In 2021, 258 Iowans died of opioid overdoses, a 21.2% increase from the previous year. The settlement money can be used to equip first responders, schools and community groups with Naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, and other FDA-approved substances. The funds can also be used to train more people on how to use such drugs if they encounter a person who is overdosing.

Many of the accepted uses for the settlement money are focused on treatment and recovery for people with Opioid-Use Disorder. That means expanding and supporting “medication-assisted treatment” programs that use substances like methadone and buprenorphine to help people safely stop opioid use. Funding can also go toward screening for pregnant women and support services for infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Beyond medical services, the money can pay for services — such as therapy, recovery housing, job placement assistance and child care — for people with substance-abuse disorders. The legislature can also choose to fund research on alternatives to opioids than can be prescribed for pain, as well as data collection on the effectiveness of strategies to prevent opioid misuse.

Iowa has already used previous settlement money to launch opioid recovery programs. In 2021, the attorney general’s office signed an agreement with University of Iowa Health Care to put $3.8 million in settlement funds toward the development of a statewide opioid treatment program.

In addition, the state now has a website,, dedicated to helping Iowans find treatment providers across Iowa.

The $19 million the Iowa Legislature has access to is only part of the money Iowa will collect through the settlements. The state will see $90 million from two settlements with pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over the course of 18 years, and Miller reported negotiations for settlements with Walgreens and CVS are underway. Local governments also have access to a combined $19 million, according to the AG’s office, which has been allocated to all 99 counties.

Additionally, Iowa will receive federal money to help combat the opioid epidemic. Iowa’s Department of Health and Human Services will receive $9 million in state opioid response money as a part of the Biden administration’s allocation of $1.5 billion nationwide. The department used the funding to expand its Naloxone program, and is accepting requests from eligible organizations, businesses and schools. Those accepted will receive free Naloxone nasal spray kits.

Iowa DHHS estimates over 1,000 Iowans will receive treatment and recovery support services during the two years of grant funding, and the state will provide prevention and harm-reduction services to more than 11,000 people.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.