Phoenix/ Politics & Govt
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Published on June 18, 2024
Arizona AG Kris Mayes Defends Opioid Settlement Funds Against State Budget ManeuversSource: Google Street View

In a significant clash over the state budget, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes voiced her discontent regarding the possible mishandling of funds intended for the opioid crisis. In a forceful rebuke, Mayes criticized the approach taken by both the Democratic Governor and GOP leaders in the State Legislature for putting at risk the $1.14 billion One Arizona Agreement, which aims at battling the state's dire opioid epidemic.

"I am extremely disappointed our Democratic Governor, along with GOP leadership at our State Legislature, would put our $1.14 billion, 18-year opioid One Arizona Agreement at risk by attempting to sweep opioid funds to backfill budget deficits caused by GOP policies," Mayes stated. Her commitment to opposing the misuse of these funds was clear as she affirmed her refusal to release these funds in a manner that would violate the agreement made. The Attorney General's statement comes alongside other legislators who also spoke against this budgetary decision and its potential consequences.

The One Arizona Agreement was established following a history of pharmaceutical companies misleading the public about the addictive potential of opioids, which has directly contributed to a public health disaster. The Arizona community is not a stranger to the ravages of this crisis, with more than 11,500 reported opioid overdose deaths since 2017, over 26,000 non-fatal overdoses, and upwards of 98,000 emergency room visits for suspected drug overdoses since 2020 alone. 

The agreement stipulates that the $1.14 billion in settlement funds is distributed based on population and the specific degree of harm experienced, with the state receiving 44% — amounting to $502 million — and the counties receiving the remainder to distribute to cities and towns within their regions. Mayes emphasized that as the legal steward of these resources, it is her responsibility to ensure that they are spent appropriately and transparently in accordance with the settlement's terms, focusing resources on prevention, education, and treatment throughout Arizona's communities.

Fulfilling her duty as the "lawyer for the people," Mayes avowed to continue her stand against the illegal redirection of these funds, which were allocated in response to a crisis that has claimed too many lives. She stressed the importance of focusing on public health over politics and expressed hope for a future where resources can effectively reach the communities in need. Until then, Mayes remains committed to her elected responsibility of managing the settlement funds and maintaining the intentional distribution structure aimed at counteracting the opioid crisis that has so deeply affected Arizona residents.