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00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980000Day after day, week after week, the headlines in Northeast Ohio and across much of the country contain news of tragic loss: lives lost to opioids. It’s a problem that knows no bounds: geography, race, gender, level of education or income.The problem took on new urgency this summer as the powerful elephant sedative, Carfentanil, began hitting the streets. First responders armed with their only weapon, the overdose antidote Naloxone, have struggled to keep up with what’s become an overwhelming problem. It’s an issue that’s straining public and social resources. What has become clear is that business as usual is not going to fix the problem.WKSU news has been covering the unfolding crisis. Tuesdays during Morning Edition, the WKSU news team digs even deeper. WKSU reporters will examine what’s led us here and what might be done to turn the tide. Support for Opioids: Turning the Tide in the Crisis comes from Wayne Savings Community Bank, Kent State University Office of Continuing and Distance Education, Hometown Grocery Delivery, Mercy Medical Center, AxessPointe Community Health Center, Community Support Services, Inc., Medina County District Library and Hudson Community First.00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980001

Summit County Declares an Opioid State of Emergency, Prepares to Sue Drug Companies and Distributors

Ilene Shapiro
M.L. SCHULTZE
/
WKSU public radio

Summit County is preparing to sue the companies that make and distribute addictive painkillers. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the lawsuit the county expects Akron, Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls and others will join  --  on the declaration by the county of a state of emergency.

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. 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.

Meanwhile, Shapiro today declared Summit County in a state of emergency caused by the opioid crisis. 

Shapiro said the state of emergency will allow the county to be prepared when more federal money becomes available.

shapiro_state_of_emergency_purpose.mp3
Shapiro on preparing for the national declaration

“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.”

President Trump is expected to declare a national state of emergency tomorrow. It’s unclear what law enforcement and treatment changes will come with that.

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. And it plans to sue the makers and distributors of the highly addictive painkillers. 

Here's the complete address by County Executive Ilene Shapiro:

171025_shapiro-state_of_county.mp3
STATE OF SUMMIT COUNTY