Tony McDowell. Courtesy of Henrico County.

The Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority has named Anthony “Tony” McDowell as its first executive director, according to a release from authority chairman, state Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Washington County.

McDowell is currently Henrico County’s deputy county manager, where he “worked extensively with the community to address substance use disorders as a public health and public safety concern,” according to the release.

The authority was created in 2021 to administer the Opioid Abatement Fund, which receives moneys from settlements, judgments, verdicts, and other court orders relating to claims regarding the manufacturing, marketing, distribution, or sale of opioids. The statutory directive to the OAA is to “provide grants and loans for the purpose of treating, preventing, or reducing opioid use disorder and the misuse of opioids or otherwise abating or remediating the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth.” It’s loosely modelled after the state’s Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, which was funded with the 1990s master settlement with tobacco companies and is used for economic development purposes in former tobacco-growing counties.

The authority has already received $11,925,653.66 of a $13.7 million settlement with the McKinsey consulting firm, according to the minutes of the authority’s June 3 meeting. The authority will receive approximately $286 million over the next 9-to-16 years under settlements reached with three major opioid distributors  (McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen) and Janssen, a  pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson. The first $60 million is scheduled to arrive this year, according to the authority’s minutes.

Further, the attorney general’s office has advised the authority to expect anywhere from $9 million to $13.42 million under a settlement reached in the Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals bankruptcy. The amount will depend on whether Mallinckrodt pays over nine years, which would result in the higher amount, or whether it pre-pays its obligation early, in which case the state would receive the lower amount, according to the authority’s minutes. The authority could also receive at least $55 million over 18 years from Purdue Pharma, but that settlement is under appeal.

In all, the attorney general’s office has advised the authority it could receive “approximately $313 million not including Purdue Pharma or $368  million including Purdue Pharma,” according to the minutes.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tony, who is already hard at work and prepared to hit the ground running on day one,” Pillion said in a statement. “Operationalizing a brand-new authority is a major task and responsibility, especially when considering the scope and importance of the OAA’s mission to save lives and strengthen our communities. As a Board, our top priority is to ensure we have the best team assembled to work with us and all federal, state, and community stakeholders to implement a bold strategy that is accountable and responsive to the resource needs to remediate and abate the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth.” 

“I am excited to be part of the Opioid Abatement Authority’s mission of saving lives,” McDowell said in a statement. “With these settlement funds, we have a real opportunity to make a difference and to turn back the tide on the opioid epidemic in Virginia.”

McDowell will assume his position August 1. His salary figure was not available.