Opioid Lawsuits Negotiated In Cleveland Federal Court
Federal court in Cleveland was ground zero today in the fight over the costs and responsibility of the opioid crisis. Hundreds of lawsuits against drug companies and distributors may be combined in a single settlement before US District Judge Dan Polster. Representatives from both sides testified.
Plaintiffs' lawyers asked Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish to testify on behalf of cities and counties in the case.
He said afterward outside the court that in his own testimony he wanted to make clear that costs will grow.
“We have people who are addicted who right now are not costing taxpayers money but may in the future,” said Budish. “And so if we’re talking about a settlement, we don’t want to settle something today and then have huge costs for the next 5 or 10 years that we haven’t addressed.”
Budish said more than 2,100 children and teens are in temporary or permanent custody of the County as a result of the opioid crisis and there is increased demand at the jail, and at the morgue.
Budish said he thought the negotiations made progress, particularly in addressing the ongoing epidemic.
“There’s certainly some areas of disagreement over who’s responsible and how, but everybody is trying to work together at this point, I believe, to figure out something to at least stop this from going forward,” said Budish.
He said the two sides have formed committees to work through short term and long term solutions and will meet again on March 6th.
--------------Armond Budish's statement for the court ----------
The solution to this epidemic lies not only with curtailing and limiting the manufacture and distribution of opioids but also addressing the needs of all those who suffer from opioid addiction and the financial impact of that addiction on local government. This year alone in Cuyahoga County more than 80,000 people are fighting for their life due to opioid addiction. The numbers of people impacted by addiction in Cuyahoga County have impacted the County in a multitude of ways.
In 2017 alone, the Medical Examiner’s Office saw an increase in operational costs due to opioid related deaths of 1.54 million dollars. The cost to the Sheriff’s Department for housing inmates identified as opioid users in 2017 totaled more than 19 million dollars. Seven Thousand Eight Hundred inmates were identified as opioid users in the jail last year. The costs to Health and Human Services in our County due to the opioid crisis has been extensive. In 2016 alone the County’s Health and Human Services Department was faced with 483 cases of drug-exposed babies. That number grew to 535 in 2017. More than 2,100 children and teens are in temporary or permanent custody of the County. Sadly this increase in need is becoming more difficult to serve due to a declining number of foster homes and in-network foster homes.
I want to thank this Court for undertaking the difficult task of seeking resolution to this litigation in a way that prevents more needless loss of life and helps local government to obtain the resources necessary to combat this crisis.