AKWESASNE – The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe received an initial distribution of $1.3 Million from a group of nationwide settlements for the devastating effects that prescription opioids have had on the Akwesasne community. The amount received by the Mohawk Tribe was part of the opioid settlements reached in 2022 with some of the major pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. Additional payments are to be made by some of the settling companies over a number of years.
“The opioid epidemic has been far more devastating and had a profound cost to tribal communities across Indian Country,” said Tribal Chief Beverly Cook. Chief Cook noted, “An entire generation of tribal members are growing up in the shadow of the opioid epidemic, with far-reaching consequences compounded by the historical trauma that our community has endured.”
On Tsiothóhrha/December 21, 2018; SRMT filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York contending pharmaceutical companies who manufacture, market, and distribute opioids carried out a scheme to make individuals believe that prescription opioids were safe, non-addictive, and could be used without long-term effects. The complaint alleges that the scheme created an opioid epidemic that has ravaged tribal communities.
For the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe
; the opioid epidemic created health effects on its members and their families, as well as increased instances of child welfare, foster care cases, and crime. As a result, the Tribe has undertaken various efforts to combat the epidemic, ranging from strategies to prevent opioids from falling into the hands of youth or those without prescriptions, and community education on opioid dangers and how to address them.
In 2018, the Tribe estimated that opioid abuse and addiction have consistently accounted for around 85 to 90 percent of child welfare cases annually for each of the last five years. Tribal programs shoulder the expense of taking custody of the children — placing them into temporary or permanent out-of-home care in the absence of a family member capable of caring for them.
“The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe has dedicated substantial resources to confronting the opioid epidemic in other service areas in an effort to protect the wellbeing and health of its tribal members,” stated Tribal Chief Michael Conners. Chief Conners added, “Despite these efforts the opioid epidemic has continued to grow.”
Settlement agreements are continuing to be negotiated with some companies, and some defendants have filed for bankruptcy, so it is undetermined at this time if additional payments will be added. The amount of the settlements that is allocated among each federally recognized Tribe and Alaskan tribal health organization was determined in part with the aid of the 2020 U.S. Census, which stresses the importance of tribal members to participate in the decennial census.
In accordance with settlement terms, the $1.3 Million shall be used to support programs on an approved list of abatement strategies; and also, for culturally appropriate activities that are aimed at remediating the opioid epidemic’s impact on the Akwesasne community. The terms recognize that tribal communities possess unique cultural practices that play an important role in the health and wellbeing of tribal members.
Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance noted, “The settlement amount does not come close to providing all the services that tribal members need in response to the opioid epidemic, but we are glad it will used to support programs that help individuals dealing with addictions, so they can safely return to their families and loved ones.”
For more information, please visit https://www.tribalopioidsettlements.com/
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.