Sanford and Lee County are poised to benefit from a multi-billion dollar lawsuit settlement between several opioid manufacturers and cities and counties across the country who had sued over claims that the companies illegally downplayed the addictive nature of the drugs in question, contributing in large part to the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States.

According to an email from Lee County Manager John Crumpton, Lee County’s share of the $26 billion settlement could be as much as $4.3 million, which would be paid out over an 18 year period. The money is to be used for treatment, education and recovery programs. He also said that with Sanford’s population exceeding 30,000 people, city government may also be eligible for some of the settlement money, although the amount is currently unknown.

Crumpton indicated that states have 30 days from the date of the agreement – July 21 – to sign onto the deal, after which local governments will have 150 days to join “to secure a critical mass of participating states and local governments.”

The Lee County Board of Commissioners took its first steps to sign onto the lawsuit in December of 2018, although two of the board’s then three Republicans, Kirk Smith and Arianna Lavallee, opposed the effort. After Republicans took back the board in the 2020 election, Smith became the board’s chairman.