News outlets nationwide have described the problems arising from the epidemic in the use of opioids. Whether it is the overuse of powerful addictive prescribed painkillers or the illegal use of a cheaper cousin, such as heroin, there is large human and governmental cost.
“Families are ripped apart. There is a real cost to county sheriffs, prosecutors, courts, and county health departments all of who are on the front line,” said San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney and Coroner Randall Gaylord. “After families, county departments bear the brunt of the response to highly addictive drug overdoses and deaths.” Gaylord has declared two opioid deaths so far this year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, San Juan County had 57.9 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 people in the county.
“This indicates the problem is here. We may be a tight-knit, beautiful island community but we have not escaped the problem of opioids,” said Gaylord.
Counties and cities throughout Washington are turning to the courts to help turn the tide by changing the practices of opioid manufacturers and compensating for costs incurred by the local government. The San Juan County Council has agreed to join in a multi-county lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids. Gaylord said he agrees this is the best approach to get a share of any payments that may be made.
The county will be represented by the Seattle Law Firm of Keller Rohrback. The firm is one of the lead attorneys in the multi-district litigation in Ohio, where all lawsuits are being consolidated. The firm is hired on a contingency fee basis. At last count, about half of Washington counties have asked to join the litigation.
“This means the legal expenses will be paid from the proceeds of a recovery,” added Gaylord. “Participating in this litigation gives the county a voice to influence the outcome in a way that best fits the needs of our community.”