The opioid epidemic has been ravaging the United States and Connecticut for nearly three decades at this point. Yet the death toll has continued to rise in recent years, fed by an increasingly lethal supply of illicit narcotics.

There have been more than 9,000 documented overdose deaths in Connecticut since 2015 that have been linked to some type of opioid. And those numbers have continued to surge over the past three years, as Connecticut averaged more than 1,300 fatal opioid overdoses annually, the majority now connected to fentanyl.

Data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for 2021, the most recent year available, shows Connecticut recorded nearly 40 overdose deaths for every 100,000 state residents. That placed Connecticut just behind states like Ohio, Maine and Kentucky.

Millions of dollars from several large legal settlements are beginning to flow into Connecticut to help combat the state’s deadly opioid epidemic, and the organizations that work on the front lines battling the state’s mounting addiction crisis are preparing to apply for a portion of that money.

But how and where most of the settlement funds will be used has yet to be determined, and with opioid overdoses currently claiming the lives of more than 100 Connecticut residents a month, the stakes could not be higher.

All together, Connecticut’s state and local governments are expected to receive an estimated $600 million over the next decade and beyond, increasing the resources that are available to counteract the ongoing public health crisis.

That figure may seem like a lot on paper, but advocates expect the decisions on how to spend the money could grow contentious in the coming months and years considering the vast need for additional prevention, intervention, treatment and harm reduction services.

At the state level, Connecticut leaders formed a special committee this year to oversee the distribution of the settlement funds, a step that was meant to prevent the money from being diverted to other governmental purposes, like the tobacco settlements of the 1990s were.

Read more: The big question: How to spend $600M in CT opioid settlement funds