Advocacy group sues panel overseeing state opioid money


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A drug policy reform group has sued the state panel that will decide how Ohio distributes more than half of the money it will receive from a nationwide settlement regarding the opioid addiction crisis.

Harm Reduction Ohio filed two lawsuits Monday against the OneOhio Recovery Foundation Board, claiming the panel isn’t following public records and meeting laws. The panel dismissed the suits as obstructive to its goal of tackling the opioid crisis.

The group claims OneOhio officials have not responded to their request for documents related to the panel’s board meetings in May and June, and “numerous” committee meetings involving “hiring, finances, bylaws and other matters.” The group also said its president was not allowed to attend the panel’s initial meeting in May, even though officials have said it would operate as if it were subject to Ohio’s open meetings law.

The 29-member panel consists of state representatives, local government leaders, addiction treatment experts and others from around the state. It will decide how to distribute more than $440 million of an $808 million settlement reached last year with the nation’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.

OneOhio, which also will seek long-term solutions to the opioid epidemic, has maintained that it’s trying to follow what the settlement mandated — that it be a private nonprofit organization — and that openly saying it’s a public body would jeopardize that status.

The open meetings lawsuit was filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, while the public records suit was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court.