Attorney General James Appoints New York City Public Health Advocate Tracie M. Gardner to Opioid Settlement Board

Gardner Brings Over Three Decades of Experience in Public Health and Health Equity to State Board that Helps Distribute Billions in Opioid Settlement Funds

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced her appointment of Tracie M. Gardner of Brooklyn, New York to the state’s Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board, which provides recommendations for how New York’s opioid settlement funds should be used in communities across the state. The board supports the distribution of more than $2.7 billion that Attorney General James has secured from opioid manufacturers and distributors, which is used for treatment, prevention, and abatement efforts. Gardner has more than three decades of experience in public health and public policy and is a nationally recognized expert on health and issues that disproportionately impact communities of color. Gardner is the Co-Director of the National Black Harm Reduction Network after concluding 24 years at the Legal Action Center, most recently serving as the Senior Vice President of Policy Advocacy.

“Tracie Gardner has spent her career bringing unique expertise to public health challenges, especially those that disproportionately impact communities of color,” said Attorney General James. “She is distinctly qualified to sit on the Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board to help steer critical investments in prevention, treatment, and recovery programs to the most vulnerable in our state. In this new role, Tracie will help oversee the distribution of more than $2.7 billion that my office secured from companies that fueled the opioid crisis, and I look forward to seeing leaders across the state continue to use these funds to support communities that are still struggling. New Yorkers have suffered great losses from the opioid epidemic, but I am confident that Tracie’s work with the board will help us turn the tide on this crisis and save lives.”

“As New Yorkers continue to endure the devastating impact of the opioid crisis, Black and Brown New Yorkers face higher barriers to access quality addiction treatment and recovery and harm reduction services,” said Tracie M. Gardner. “My work has always focused on tackling New York’s public health challenges in a way that is equitable, just, and inclusive, and I look forward to supporting the board’s mission of prioritizing these critically needed resources in communities of color that have been torn apart by the overdose crisis and the war on drugs. I am deeply grateful to Attorney General James for this appointment. Her tireless efforts to secure these settlement funds for our state have set a national precedent that makes me confident that we can turn the tide of this epidemic.” 

Since 2021, Attorney General James has secured over $2.7 billion from opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic. These include Amneal PharmaceuticalsHikma PharmaceuticalsPublicis HealthTeva PharmaceuticalsJohnson & JohnsonMallinckrodtAllerganEndoMcKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen. Attorney General James has also led multistate coalitions in reaching settlements for billions of dollars with CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart for their roles in failing to properly regulate opioid prescriptions. Additionally, Attorney General James, co-led a coalition of nearly every attorney general in the nation in delivering more than $573 million – more than $32 million for New York state – toward opioid treatment and abatement in an agreement and consent judgment with McKinsey & Company.

The Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board was created in 2022 to make recommendations to the governor and state legislative leaders on how to allocate funds secured from opioid settlements or litigation victories. Under the 2021 law establishing the state’s opioid settlement fund, these funds will be allocated specifically for abatement efforts in communities devastated by the opioid epidemic and will be distributed to all 62 counties in New York state. Since its creation, the board has developed ten priority investment areas – with a focus on investing in removing barriers to treatment and addiction services in communities of color – to guide state allocations of settlement funds. 

The law also grants Attorney General James the authority to pick one individual to serve on the Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board, which makes recommendations to the state Legislature on how programs across the state will receive funds. Her previous appointment, Avi Israel, president and founder of Save the Michaels of the World, Inc. is stepping down from the board after three years of service. 

About Tracie M. Gardner

Tracie M. Gardner is the Co-Director of the National Black Harm Reduction Network and has worked for more than three decades in the public health, public policy, and not-for-profit fields. The former Senior Vice President of Policy Advocacy at the Legal Action Center (LAC), Ms. Gardner’s work has focused on the intersection of health equity, criminal justice, and public health issues across New York and the United States. 

Beginning as an AIDS policy advocate in 1989 at the New York City Minority Task Force on AIDS (now called FACES), Ms. Gardner led budget and legislative advocacy campaigns that won key health and criminal-legal reforms in New York State at organizations such as the National Minority AIDS Council, GMHC, and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. 

From 2013 to 2015, Ms. Gardner worked closely with the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Division of Criminal Justice Services on efforts to use Medicaid-funded health homes to improve transitions from incarceration to community-based care. During this time, she was also appointed to the New York State End the Epidemic Task Force which was established to support the state's goal to achieve the first-ever decrease in HIV prevalence in New York by the end of 2020.

From 2015 to 2017, Ms. Gardner served as the Assistant Secretary of Health in the Office of the Governor, where she oversaw the state’s mental hygiene agencies, including the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, the Office of Mental Health, the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, and the Justice Center, a state enforcement agency established to protect vulnerable individuals. Following her time in the Governor’s office, she returned to the Legal Action Center as the organization’s first Associate Director, inaugurating its work on racial justice and equity and continuing policy advocacy work on the Legal Action Center's priorities. 

Ms. Gardner has been involved in several advisory bodies overseeing research on the national overdose crisis and the impact of COVID on people involved with the criminal legal system, especially those with substance use and mental disorders. Ms. Gardner was the inaugural co-chair of the Black Communities Workgroup of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency initiative’s Opioid Response Network. 

She has contributed to or co-authored numerous publications, including “Case Studies from Three States: Breaking Down Silos Between Health Care and Criminal Justice” in Health Affairs and “Methadone Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder: Improving Access Through Regulatory and Legal Change: Proceedings of a Workshop” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2022.

Her proudest achievement is as a parent to her two sons, Caleb and Elijah Wright.