Jason Thompson: My name is Jason Thompson, and I’m here today, with two of my partners from Sommers Schwartz Law Firm–Lisa Esser and Rob Sickels. And today, we’re going to talk about the opioid litigation in America.
Are There Statistics About the Actual Cost of the Opioid Epidemic on Michigan Municipalities?
Jason: Has Sommers Schwartz done any research as to the effect of any particular municipality?
Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller: Great question. So earlier this year, we did a FOIA request to the state of Michigan, trying to get the data, to find out exactly what the numbers were in terms of the opioids being shipped in each county. And what we got in response was tens of thousands of pages of records. And what we’re able to do with that data is go through–by zip code, by pharmacy– and figure out exactly how many pills were shipped in each county for each quarter of each year in the last several years. And during our talks with county officials, we’re able to put that data together specifically for them.
Robert Sickels: An amazing sidelight is how surprised that county officials are when they hear the numbers of pills that have been sold into their communities. They are usually, aghast.
Lisa: Rob and I were in a community two days ago, and we had put the numbers together for them. This community had a population of 25,000 people, but in just one quarter there, there was 505,000 pills shipped in. That’s one quarter of one year with a population of 25,000. That gives you a glimpse into what kind of numbers we’re talking about here.
Rob: At this meeting, there was a sheriff present and it was amazing to listen to him explain exactly what is involved in terms of law enforcement, with respect to overdoses and addiction, and the amount of resources that they have to bring to bear to deal with this crisis. It’s phenomenal.
What Economic Harm Have Michigan Municipalities Suffered?
Jason: And how do all of these pills that you reference, translate into actual costs and harm to the municipalities?
Rob: Well, historically speaking, there’s an obvious correlation between the number of pills that are sold in a particular community, in a county, and the levels of addiction. And also, there’s a correlation between the number of pills and the number of resources that the county must bring to bear, to deal with addiction and crime.
How Have Municipalities Handled the Financial & Social Costs of the Opioid Epidemic?
Jason: How is a municipality– whether it be a city or county– bearing the cost of all of those? It is literally requiring counties to increase their budgets for law enforcement, for healthcare, for medical examiner fees because of the overdoses that result in deaths.
Lisa: In addition to the things that Rob just mentioned, counties are also having to equip their patrolmen with Narcan–that is an expense to the counties. They’re administering this medication for those that are suffering from an overdose, trying to bring them back quickly. Counties have also expended thousands of dollars on drug courts because the number of people coming in because of addiction overdoses is just overwhelming their court system so they’re having to literally, set up and establish a whole other type of court system within the global court system, to try to deal with this. So those are all things that can be recuperated for the counties in terms of costs.
Jason: Thank you both, very much.