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A look at how Michigan's opioid settlement money can be spent

A look at how Michigan's opioid settlement money can be spent
A look at how Michigan's opioid settlement money can be spent 02:16

(CBS DETROIT) - Pharmaceutical giants are paying out billions for their part in the opioid epidemic in the United States. 

Michigan is set to receive $1.6 billion to address the epidemic and its aftermath, which brings local governments to an important question - how to spend that money. 

"All the funding funding goes through this restricted fund. It can't lapse back into the general fund and be reused for any purposes other than responding to the overdose epidemic," said Jared Welehodsky, a state assistant administrator with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

According to the state, the settlement dollars can be used for a long list of remedies, from overdose reversal products like Naloxone to prevention programs and even efforts to prevent over-prescribing from doctors. 

"The priorities of this funding should fund holistic programs," said Dunya Barash, the director of operations with Families Against Narcotics. "That could be like street medicine teams, harm reduction strategies in the community proven deflection and diversion partnerships with law enforcement and health care systems. It's really about addressing the entire issue of substance use disorder and all of the issues related to it."

Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that across the country, some of this funding is being honed in on by private companies marketing their products. Companies that make pill disposal products, safe pill storage, or even products for law enforcement like speed ray guns are pushing municipalities to use their settlement funds for their products and even have tabs on their websites to track your state's settlement money. 

"When you're in government, there are always companies that want to do business with you," said Andrea Taverna, a senior advisor for the deputy mayor of Detroit. "But luckily, the city has a very standard and competitive set of procurement procedures. Companies are welcome to pitch us. But we go through the standard process ... we're very rigorous about that."

Taverna says the city's officials haven't gotten any marketing emails specifically urging the use of settlement money on products. However, the MDHHS confirmed that it has received some of those marketing emails.

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