Dane County becomes the 69th Wisconsin county to file a suit against pharmaceutical companies for the opioid crisis. Five tribes have also filed suits.
Dane County executive Joe Parisi says they’re hoping to make up the monetary toll the epidemic has had on the community.
He says the pharmaceutical companies are right at the root of this problem.
“We have a number of very large corporations that have made extreme profits off of opioids,” Parisi says.
The county has spent money on emergency medical services for overdose patients, as well as increased costs for law enforcement and special addiction recovery programs.
In the District Attorney’s office, the county spends $230,000 a year on additional staff to keep up with what Parisi calls the “crush of opioid cases.”
“People are losing their lives, people are losing friends and family members,” Parisi says. “From a taxpayer standpoint, this is costing us a lot of money.”
Dane County is also suing distributors — like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart — in addition to pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma.
The county announced they planned to sue late last year. One of the lawyers hired by the County, Mike Modl, says the past six months have been spent working with the national firm responsible for the suit — Baron & Budd — to build a case.
“There were a lot discussions going on with national council … we wanted to make sure that when the complaint was done and filed, it would be the complaint that could withstand challenges,” Modl says.
In addition to district attorney staff and hospital visits, the county has spent taxpayer money on its needle exchange program and more long term recovery methods.
But the county’s lost more than just money. In 2016, there were 85 opioid related deaths in Dane County. That’s compared to only 13 in 2000.