The state panel that will decide how Ohio distributes more than half of the money it will receive from a national settlement over the opioid addiction crisis must make its records publicly available, the Court ruled. Supreme of the state ruled.
In their unanimous decision, the justices rejected OneOhio Recovery Foundation’s claim that it is a private nonprofit corporation and therefore not subject to the state’s open public records law. The judges found that the foundation “misrepresented its function,” saying it was not responsible for providing treatment, education or prevention services, but for providing money to people who provide such services.
The decision stems from a lawsuit brought by Harm Reduction Ohio, a drug policy reform group that requested documents related to the panel’s board meetings and “numerous” committee meetings involving “the -hire, finance, laws and other things.” The reform group also said its president would not be allowed to attend the panel’s initial meeting in May 2022, though officials said it would do so under Ohio’s open meetings law.
The 29-member panel consists of state representatives, local government leaders, addiction treatment experts and others from across the state. It will decide how to distribute more than $440 million in an $808 million settlement reached last year with the nation’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors and drug makers Johnson & Johnson.
OneOhio, which also seeks long-term solutions to the opioid epidemic, maintains it is trying to follow what the settlement mandates — that it is a private nonprofit organization — and that it openly says it is a public body that harms the situation.
“The ruling doesn’t change things,” said Connie Luck, a spokeswoman for OneOhio. “Consistent with its mission, the foundation operates in a transparent manner and will continue to do so.”
Harm Reduction Ohio President Dennis Cauchon said the ruling brings “a critical level of transparency” to the money allocation process,
“Our state’s $1 billion settlement fund should not be spent in secret,” Cauchon said. “People are dying for this money. They have a right to know what’s going on and be involved in the process.”
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