TWIN FALLS — Council members will decide whether to attempt to recover financial damages caused by the opioid crisis.
Twin Falls City Council will vote Monday on a resolution to join a multi-district lawsuit in an Ohio federal court against certain prescription opioid companies.
The proposed resolution states the city is aware of the opioid addiction epidemic, and that it “constitutes a continuing and increasing health problem of crisis proportions” and places “heightened demand for and strain on local services.”
In May, attorneys from Boise law firm Mooney Wieland and Chicago law firm Keller Lenkner presented their strategy for the lawsuit to council members. The lawsuit alleges opioid manufacturers and distributors encouraged over-prescription and over-supply, increasing public costs for law enforcement, medical care, health insurance and other city amenities.
If approved by the City Council, the resolution would allow Twin Falls to enter a contingency fee retainer to allow the firms to pursue litigation on behalf of the city. That means the city would pay nothing unless the lawsuit succeeds and would only be required to provide general details about city operations.
More than 1,500 cities and counties have joined lawsuits against Ohio opioid manufacturers and distributors, the firms’ representatives said.
Joining the lawsuit could have some financial benefits, but mostly it would provide injunctive relief to ensure the problem does not continue, City Attorney Shayne Nope said. There is a very small chance of a countersuit, he said.
The city should not shirk its duty to the community, council member Chris Talkington said at the May meeting.
“I’m with you all the way,” Talkington told the lawyers. “We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend we don’t have a drug problem in the city.”
The first trial is scheduled for October 21.
In 2016, there were 77.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 Idahoans, the 14th highest rate in the country, according to a 2018 study from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. In Twin Falls County, the rate was 99.9 per 100 people.
There were 466 opioid involved deaths between 2012 and 2016 in Idaho, including 19 in Twin Falls County, the study said.
Heroin and prescription drug arrests in the county more than doubled between 2014 and 2016. The county had the sixth-most Medicaid beneficiaries receiving prescription treatment for opioid addiction in the state.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in May issued a notice of intent to sue OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order on June 13 to create an advisory group to provide policy recommendations on combating opioid misuse.
At least 13 Idaho counties have joined national lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. Twin Falls County has not joined a lawsuit.
The council meeting begins at 5 p.m. in City Hall.