BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — State and local governments are set to take a major step in their efforts to hold the pharmaceutical industry responsible for its role in the opioid crisis. They're on the verge of a $26 billion settlement with the nation's three biggest drug distributors - McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen.
New York State will receive $1.1 billion from this settlement, which will go towards communities struggling to combat the opioid crisis.
It's the largest settlement negotiated by Attorney General Letitia James.
The drug crisis has been plaguing America. Across the nation in 2020, more than 93,000 people died from overdose, according to provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. That figure is nearly 30 percent higher than 2019 numbers.
2020 was an especially hard-hit year in Western New York as well.
Last year in Erie County reported 246 opioid-related deaths, compared with 156 in 2019.
Niagara County experienced the highest year on record for opioid-related fatalities in 2020. There were 59 opioid overdose deaths in 2020 - a 104 percent increase from 2019.
2021 is trending in a bleak direction for Niagara County. According to Rebecca Wydysh, Chairman of the Niagara County Legislature, there have been 47 overdose fatalities so far in 2021. At the same time in 2020, there had been 25 fatalities.
Wydysh describes the current trend is a "very significant, and troubling increase" and told 7 Eyewitness News in an email "we are obviously concerned that we are going to go well above again this year."