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AP leads all-formats coverage of opioids settlement, victims

Ed Bisch, who lost his 18-year-old son Eddie to an overdose nearly 20 years ago, listens on speaker phone from his home in Westampton, N.J., Sept. 1, 2021, as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain gives conditional approval of a plan for OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to settle thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments and others over opioids. Bisch, who has spent more than a decade pushing for the Sackler family, owners of Purdue, to be criminally prosecuted, is leading a group of families asking the U.S. Justice Department to appeal the settlement. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

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Geoff Mulvihill of AP’s State Government Team spearheaded all-formats coverage of the landmark opioid bankruptcy settlement involving OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma while keeping victims’ voices at the forefront.

Mulvihill has been indispensable as the AP’s lead writer on dozens of opioid cases that have played out around the U.S. in recent years. None has been bigger or more widely watched than the bankruptcy of Purdue, which has become a symbol of corporate culpability for an epidemic that has killed half a million Americans in the last 20 years.

In the days leading up to the expected settlement,Mulvihill wrote preparedness,contacted all the key parties to understand what the federal judge might do,and lined up numerous victims and opioid treatment advocates for comment. He and others coordinated with photo and video journalists to ensure strong visuals on the day of the settlement and to accompany a victim-focused story for the next news cycle.

When the Purdue settlement decision was imminent,Mulvihill immediately contacted the filing team,prompting the team to alter the prepared alert and story lead to more accurately reflect what the judge was deciding. He then co-reported the follow-up story that focused on how opioid victims and their families were reacting to the end of the legal case against Purdue. He also turned around a weekend story about the issue that will be central to the coming appeals process — the controversial legal immunity given to Purdue’s owners, the Sackler family.

Mulvihill’s work continually kept AP out front on a hotly competitive story that was watched closely by millions across the U.S. who have been affected by the crisis.

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