Orleans plans to declare opioid epidemic a ‘public nuisance’
County will establish cost recovery procedure to recoup costs in providing services due to crisis
ALBION – Orleans County legislators want pharmaceutical companies to pay for the county’s added costs in providing services for people affected by the opioid epidemic.
The epidemic has hit the county. Last year there were 39 opioid overdoes in Orleans, and seven deaths from overdoses, said County Legislator Don Allport, R-Gaines.
The county has added services in the jail and community to assist people with addictions.
The County Legislature voted to set a public hearing for 4:25 p.m. on Feb. 28 so Orleans can declare the opioid epidemic and its effect on the county “a public nuisance.” The Legislature also wants to establish a cost recovery procedure for the county’s expenditures incurred for services due to the epidemic. The public hearing will be at the Legislature’s meeting room on the second floor of 3 South Main Street, Albion.
The County Legislature in September also voted to join a growing number of municipalities in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for allegedly fueling an opioid crisis.
The Legislature retained Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, a Manhattan firm, in the lawsuit. The firm is paying any upfront costs for staffing and retaining expert witnesses, County Attorney David Schubel said.
The counties are contending the pharmaceutical manufacturers knew that opioids were effective for short-term or trauma-related pain, as well as palliative (end-of-life) care. However, the manufacturers also knew for years that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, especially when used for more than three months.
The lawsuit contends that prescription painkillers, as well as heroin abuse, are the prime causes for an increase in overdose deaths.
“There was a concerted effort by pharmaceutical companies to promote opioid use in excess of what was necessary,” Schubel said during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting.
He said the pharmaceutical companies have responded they only made the drugs. They said it was the doctors who prescribed the opioids.
But Schubel said there is evidence showing the pharmaceutical companies went to great lengths to promote their products – at the expense of public health.
“They almost make the tobacco industry look like the good guys,” Schubel said.