Mayes calls judge’s decision to let opioid settlement funds go to corrections an ‘absolute travesty’

Jun 26, 2024, 1:08 PM

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes worries that the governor’s decision to use opioid settlement money to fund the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry will cause problems in the future.

Mayes sued the state last week after the Arizona Legislature passed the budget and Gov. Katie Hobbs signed it into law. She wanted to block leaders from using $115 million in opioid settlement funds to remedy the budget deficits.

She received a temporary restraining order. However, a judge overturned it on Monday night.

“We obviously still disagree with the judge and his decision,” Mayes told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday. “It’s a sad day, I think, for Arizonans, especially in rural Arizona.”

Furthermore, she called the decision to sweep the opioid settlement funds into the Department of Corrections to backfill its budget an “absolute travesty.”

That spending was supposed to go throughout the state to prevent and treat opioid addiction, she said.

“They should not be allowed to do this,” Mayes added.

She said Hobbs and the Legislature could have used a $1.4 billion rainy day fund to plug the budget deficit.

“Instead, they swept these opioids funds, contrary to the consent decrees, which, by the way, were signed by six or seven different judges in Arizona,” Mayes said.

Opioid settlement money to be used to fund Arizona’s prisons

Mayes is worried that allocating opioid settlement funds to support the Arizona prison system will cause issues in the future.

After all, the millions of dollars from the opioid settlements come from pharmaceutical companies that agreed to pay to settle allegations that they perpetuated drug addiction across the U.S.

These Big Pharma powerhouses may see the Arizona budget’s use of these funds as a violation of their settlement agreements, Mayes said.

“You could see some of these pharmaceutical companies coming in to Arizona and trying to claw back their money because they believe it’s been misused,” Mayes said.

She said she plans to watch the Department of Corrections like a hawk. She wants to make sure it’s using the money to pay for services related to addiction treatment and prevention.

“I think that’s a danger,” Mayes said. “I think the Department of Corrections had better be ready to prove to me and to everybody else that they actually are spending this money on opioid addiction purposes.”

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Mayes calls judge’s decision to let opioid settlement funds go to corrections an ‘absolute travesty’