Ohio opioid settlement panel’s records must be public, top state court says

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Ohio Supreme Court rejects corporation’s arguments

COLUMBUS (AP) — 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 must make its records publicly available, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In their unanimous ruling, the justices rejected the OneOhio Recovery Foundation’s claim that it was a private nonprofit corporation and therefore not subject to the state’s open public records law. 

Email newsletter signup

The justices found the foundation “misstates its function,” noting it’s not responsible for providing treatment, education or prevention services, but rather giving settlement money to those who do provide such services.

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Harm Reduction Ohio, a drug policy reform group that has sought documents related to the panel’s board meetings and “numerous” committee meetings involving “hiring, finances, bylaws and other matters.” The reform group also said its president was not allowed to attend the panel’s initial meeting in May 2022, even though officials had 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.