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'Insulting': Proposed opioid settlement met with anger, disappointment from Tulalip Tribes

Tribal leaders say the payout only amounts to about $500,000.

TULALIP, Wash — Drugmaker Johnson and Johnson, along with three major pharmaceutical distributors, have reached a tentative settlement with Native American tribes across the country for their role in the nation's opioid epidemic.

They've agreed to pay $590 million to be split up among the nation's 574 tribes.

Misty Napeahi, who oversees health and addiction services for the Tulalip Tribes said the formula used to divide the money will likely only bring the tribe about $500,000.

"It's budget dust," she said. "I think it should be insulting to every single citizen in this country."

The opioid epidemic is now worse on Indian reservations than any other segment of American society. The Tulalip, a confederation of tribes, has been battling it from the very beginning, more than 20 years.

"This has been so insidious," said Napeahi. "It has infiltrated every single home here in one way or another."

Napeahi admits even she has lost loved ones to the epidemic and still has relatives fighting the demons of addiction.

"I can't begin to tell you how many people we lost and how many children today are either orphaned or only have one living parent. I can't tell you how many moms or dads have buried their kids."

The proposed settlement is payable over the course of 7 years.

A previous settlement with Purdue Pharma only garnered about $400,000, also payable in installments.

"These big pharmaceutical companies get to wreak havoc in our families with zero accountability," said Napeahi. "It blows my mind what they've been able to get away with and continue to get away with."

Last year, alone, the Tulalip spent $1.2 million on drug treatment for its people.

They hope to use the settlement money for programs to keep people sober once they leave treatment.

Despite her disappointment, Napeahi believes brighter days are ahead for her people.

"I feel like when you've been beat down this far the only way out is that light at the end of the tunnel and I believe that light has been turned on and it's shining," she said.

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