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Lafayette County joins opioid lawsuit

By Allen Brewer

On Monday, the  Lafayette County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to step into the ring and help fight back against opioids.

Lafayette County is joining with 22 other counties, and five other cities, in Mississippi in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute opioid medication. The case is the largest of its kind in the country.

“I feel the possible benefits are worth the chance to help citizens fight the epidemic,” Mike Roberts, District Five Supervisor, said.

The effects of opioid addiction have been the focus of the federal government as well as local governments across the country. The Mississippi suit is being presented in combination with multiple lawsuits by smaller governments across 31 states in hopes to prove the opioid manufacturers are negligent.

According to a study by the Center of Disease Control, Mississippi is ranked as the sixth-worst state for opioid usage.

CDC Records from 2016 stated that over 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths were caused by prescription opioids.

The most common drugs relating to opioid overdose deaths include Methadone, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. Records show around 46 people die every day from opioid overdose.

In a May 2018 report from the EAGLE, the national average for opioid prescription rates stood at about 80 prescriptions per 100 residents.

In Mississippi, the prescription rate is 120 prescriptions per 100 residents, meaning that enough prescriptions are written in Mississippi for each resident to have more than one in his or her name.

In the last 11 years, Lafayette County’s average prescription rate is around 90 prescriptions per every 100 residents.

The lawsuit states that the opioid companies were distributing drugs without telling the public about their highly addictive qualities. Lafayette County and the other local governments hope to win back the money that was spent treating local victims of addiction.

In Lafayette County, the supervisors also support Communicare, a local program that provides treatment for opioid addicts, among other services. If the county and other governments win the case, any money issued to Lafayette County could go towards funding lengthier treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction.

Now that the supervisors have voted to be included in the lawsuit, the county will enter a contingency fee contract, meaning that Lafayette County will not have to pay out-of-pocket costs if the case is lost or dropped. The county will also be able to dismiss the case at any time without penalty.

During Monday night’s meeting, members of the board stated that they were not sure how long it will take for the lawsuit to be filed or what the results might be.

“Our obligation is to look out for the health and safety of our citizens,“ Kevin Frye, District One Supervisor, said. “There is no doubt that opioids have affected our community. The board is holding the private entities accountable for their actions.”