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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

Opioid Settlement Fund already providing benefits

ALBANY, Oct. 10, 2021 -- Back in June, in the closing days of the 2021 legislative session, the Senate and Assembly unanimously approved a new law establishing an “Opioid Settlement Fund.”

The new law, which I helped co-sponsor and strongly supported, is now beginning to make a difference. Its approval could not have been timelier. Recent reports have shown that there was a sharp rise in opioid-related deaths nationwide and throughout the Southern Tier in 2020. Most local counties saw an increase in opioid-related fatalities last year. Another troubling spike is seemingly underway this year.

The creation of the Opioid Settlement Fund finally ensures that any funding the state receives from opioid-related lawsuit settlements and other actions against opioid manufacturers and distributors must be dedicated to education, prevention, treatment, and recovery programs and services in communities across the state.

As I said at the time of the law’s enactment, it’s the right thing to do. It’s one of the highlights of this year’s legislative session.

The opioid abuse epidemic has taken thousands of lives and ravaged communities and families across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and throughout New York State. As a member of the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, we held hearings locally and statewide several years ago to hear directly from the front lines of this epidemic -- health care experts, substance abuse counselors, law enforcement, social services, families who have lost loved ones, and recovering addicts themselves -- to help develop an ongoing strategy to better confront this crisis.

The new Opioid Settlement Fund and a renewed commitment to combating this epidemic that can stem from it promises to enhance our efforts to rebuild shattered lives and prevent countless tragic deaths.

Specifically, the new law (S7194/A6395, Chapter 190 of the Laws of 2021) states that “all funds received by the state as the result of a settlement or a judgment in litigation against opioid manufacturers, distributors, dispensers, consultants, or resellers shall be deposited into the opioid settlement fund, and that such funds shall not supplant or replace existing state funding.”

Last week, New York State Attorney General Letitia James began the initial distributions to counties statewide of as much as $1.5 billion from the settlement of a series of lawsuits to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable.

“For more than two decades,” the attorney general said, “New Yorkers have experienced the dire and deadly effects of opioids ... The funds we’re infusing into New York today and going forward will be used towards combating this epidemic with investments in prevention, treatment, and recovery. While no amount of money will ever compensate for the millions of addictions, the hundreds of thousands of deaths, or the countless families torn apart by opioids, this money will be vital in preventing future devastation.”

According to the attorney general, counties comprising the 58th Senate District are in line to receive the following initial funding:

  • Chemung County, approximately $1.03 to $1.8 million;
  • Schuyler County, approximately $175,000 to $305,800;
  • Steuben County, approximately $955,885 to $1.67 million;
  • Tompkins County, approximately $990,000 to $1.7 million; and
  • Yates County, approximately $208,000 to $364,000.

All said, it’s a timely and positive action. The creation of this Opioid Settlement Fund puts a stop, in this instance, to a long-standing and questionable practice of New York State taking settlement funds and dumping them into the state’s general fund to be used for any purpose at all.

What we have said here is: Not this time.

Not when the opioid crisis has been ravaging families and communities.

Not when the opioid epidemic has cost thousands of lives.

Not when this public health emergency will continue to demand more and more resources for education and prevention, and treatment and recovery.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Carl Blowers, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell

Bottom row: Gary Gray, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro

Not pictured: Laurence Jaynes


Legislature Chairman

Carl Blowers, 535-6174 or 237-5469

Legislature Members:

Gary Gray, 292-9922

Jim Howell, 535-7266 or 227-1141

David M. Reed, 796-9558

Michael Lausell, 227- 9226

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro, 398-0648

Laurence Jaynes

County Clerk: Theresa Philbin, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Holley Sokolowski, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2021
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869