City leaders alongside Community Medical Centers officials gathered at the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium on Tuesday to discuss their plans for money received from California opioid lawsuit settlements.

In 2021, several pharmaceutical companies agreed to pay out $26 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits nationwide related to the opioid epidemic and the companies’ alleged roles in the problem.

Over $2 billion of that money will be going to California through 2038, according to the state’s Department of Health Care Services. The state will also get multiple millions more after drug stores such as Walgreens, Walmart and CVS settled in July for $17.3 billion.

City officials said Stockton received its first $1,033,410 payment under the agreement and anticipate receiving the annual payments for up to 18 years.

Community Medical Centers is a nonprofit that provides medical, dental and behavioral health care to more than 100,000 patients throughout San Joaquin, Solano and Yolo counties.

Community Medical Centers’ Respite Center at the corner of North Stanislaus and Channel streets in Stockton appears in a Google Street View image. The facility will expand its existing substance use disorder treatment programs using a portion of proceeds received from a federal opioid lawsuit settlement. (Google image)

CMC’s Respite Center will be front and center for administering the money in order to continue offering services.

The center, which opened last year, is a residential facility providing care and treatment for people with substance use disorders.

The Respite Center offers up to 13 bed spaces for up to 14 days to assist patients in addressing mild withdrawal symptoms.

Following the treatment of the substance abuse, people in the facility are also linked with medical providers, behavioral health providers, receive intensive case management and other services, according to Alfonso Apu, chief behavioral health officer at Community Medical Centers.

Fentanyl deaths skyrocketing

Mayor Kevin Lincoln said in the city there were 48 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2021, which was 20 times higher than in 2018.

He said half of the people were between the ages of 14 and 35 years old.

The Stockton City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved an agenda item to accept the funds and authorize staff to enter into contractual agreements with CMC to start the program efforts.

During the meeting, Apu told council members that last year there were 111 opioid-related deaths in the Stockton area.

“This crisis impacts so many lives beyond the 111,” Stockton Vice Mayor Kimberly Warmsley said at the meeting.

Apu said the money was vital to keep the continuity of care for the center and sustain services.

“The Respite Center is a 24-hour service care facility,” Apu said. “Therefore, you can imagine, the need for staffing, the need for resources, the need for available bed space is really what we’re looking forward to and these funds will allow us to continue to make sure that these beds are available for an extended amount of time.”

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