NEWBERRY — Thomas Pope III and Lisa Senn presented Newberry County Council with a proposal to recover costs that Newberry County may have incurred as a result of the opioid epidemic.
“We are here on behalf of the opioid litigation, many municipalities across the country are suing the manufacturers. I’ve discussed this issue with the sheriff, county administrator, county attorney and some members of Council,” Pope said. “As of 2016, South Carolina ranked ninth in the nation on opioid prescribing rates. The drug overdose death due to opioid has increased over the last five or six years exponentially. Of our Medicaid population, in this state, 3,500 Medicaid enrollees reportedly have opioid addiction.”
Pope added that opioid sales have skyrocketed.
The offshoot of this, according to Pope, is that governments are faced with unexpected costs, because of the opioid problem. He said that the costs range from picking up someone who has overdosed, to treatment.
“Why unnecessary? The drugs we are talking about, there is an infinite list, Oxycontin and numerous others. Oxycontin seems to be the main one,” Pope said. “These are not illegal drugs, people got on these drugs and cannot get off of them. We know now that the drug manufacturers and distributors have misrepresented, contorted facts and used front groups to promote the long term use of opioids.”
Pope added that opioids work in the short term, and no one is saying to outlaw opioids.
“They provide good relief, short term, for acute problems, like gunshot wounds or surgical pain, things like that,” he said. “The drug companies have actually given the prescriptions to people, seven day prescriptions, because they know after seven days they will want more, after seven days you do not need more.”
Pope and Senn were contacted by a liaison lawyer in South Carolina, and as of right now there are 14 counties that have signed up to bring suit against the manufacturers and distributors of opioids.
Senn added that this is an opportunity to get on board with the idea that is going around this country to stop the opioid epidemic.
“The suit we are proposing would be to recover whatever those costs, by-product costs, are because of people who are addicted to opioids in this country. Including law enforcement, medical, unnecessary EMS runs, including treating infants who have been born with these opioid related conditions,” Pope said. “We think the county should get back whatever we can. What that cost is is undetermined, we propose no fee charge unless we can recover for the county, then a 25% fee of what is recovered. The county would only have to provide technical assistance to identify and produce the damages for this county.”
County Council entered into executive session to discuss legal strategy, but no action was taken.
• Council approved first reading of an ordinance to rezone a parcel of land, located on Marina Way, from General Commercial to Single Family Residential.
• Council approved a bid from Safe Industries in the amount of $1,444.50 for firefighter bunker gear. The price provided is a unit price for a complete set of gear. The emergency service director plans to purchase 31, at a total cost of $44,779.50.
• Council approved a proclamation declaring March 2018 as Disabilities Awareness Month in Newberry County.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.