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Declaring State Of Emergency, Summit County Plans To Sue Drug Companies

Mark Urycki
Downtown Akron

After Summit County declared a “state of emergency” caused by the opioid crisis, county leaders are preparing to sue the companies that make and distribute addictive painkillers. Akron, Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls and others are expected to join.

At her state of the county address, county executive Ilene Shapiro announced the plans to file the suit in a few weeks. She says the opioid epidemic has cost local taxpayers nearly $112 million over the last five years, and is likely to cost as much as $165 million over the next five.

Shapiro says she became convinced the suit was warranted because of growing evidence that the drug companies “deceitfully and maliciously flooded our community.”

“When you realize and get the information and understand what has really been perpetrated – letting our physicians believe these were non-addictive drugs and so forth – it gets your ire up,” Shapiro says. “And if f we won’t step up and speak out, who will?”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has sued the manufacturers of the drugs, but not the wholesalers, like Ohio-based Cardinal Health, that distribute them. Dayton and Lorain have already sued both groups.

Shapiro said Summit County’s declaration of a state of emergency will allow the county to be prepared when more federal money becomes available. 

“If funds are allocated, we believe that will put us in the forefront of being able to access those funds immediately, as opposed to going out and get a plan and then submitting,” Shapiro says.

Summit County also plans to allow two nonprofits to build an inpatient and aftercare facility on the now vacant land that was Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Hospital.

President Trump is expected to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergencyon Thursday. It’s unclear what law enforcement and treatment changes will come with that.