Mitchell Talks: Legislative Leader Questions Oversight Of Opioid Settlement
This week on Mitchell Talks, News 9 political analyst Scott Mitchell and Covering The Capitol reporter Aaron Brilbeck talk with Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City).
The settlement with Purdue Pharma will establish a nearly $200 million endowment at Oklahoma State University's Center for Wellness and Recovery that will go toward treating addiction.
Only $12 million of that will go to local communities to fight the epidemic. Three non-elected Oklahomans have been appointed by the Attorney General to oversee the money until a foundation can be set up. They will not answer to the legislature and will not be subject to open records requests.
“I have some concerns about where the money is going,” Echols said. “There doesn’t appear to be any real oversight. Remember, these are damages to the state of Oklahoma.”
News9’s Aaron Brilbeck asked, “Is it a ‘Bravo, Attorney General’ when we’ve got $260 million that we can’t touch, that isn’t going directly to helping the victims but is going towards setting up a huge tax shelter for the people responsible for a lot of deaths?”
“It is a tax-deductible donation.” Echols said. "That’s why it was created.”
Echols said there is little the legislature can do about it now. “We’re moving forward through the several stages of grief.” Echols explained, “First was anger. Then there's denial, and eventually we have to get to acceptance. This was settled the way it was settled.”
Prescription opioids were a factor in 48,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.