BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to enter into litigation involving opioids and the impact that these drugs have on Fannin County.
At the Feb. 13 BOC meeting, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss presented a proposal that the county be represented in a legal case involving pharmaceutical companies and their distributors.
“There has been similar litigation about other drugs in the past,” Doss explained, citing the settlements reached from tobacco companies in the late 1990s.
On Oct. 27, 2017, the state of Georgia acknowledged the opioid crisis as a public health emergency. Between June 2016 and May 2017, opioid doses prescribed in Georgia reached a soaring 541 million. That roughly breaks down to 54 doses for every man, woman and child in the state.
“It’s real. It’s here in Fannin County,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton spoke of the need for the county to acknowledge and address this ongoing epidemic.
The statistics for Fannin County are even higher than that of the state average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prescribing rate in Fannin County for 2016 was 154.3 doses per 100 people.
The national prescribing rate in 2016 was 66.5 doses per 100 people, and the rate for the state of Georgia was 77.8 per 100 people.
Fannin County also saw five deaths due to overdose in 2016.
“In this county, if you take law enforcement, the jail, you take the court system, this county puts in over five million dollars a year in all those different segments,” Helton said of areas in our county where taxpayers can directly see a loss due to this ongoing crisis.
Doss shared information with the board on how the litigation will work: “It is being done directly by the counties instead of by the states. Any settlement comes directly to the county.”
Marc J. Bern and Partners, LLP will be representing the county in this suit. The agreement of the contract with this firm is that they will provide all upfront costs and would receive 25 percent of any settlement that Fannin County is awarded.
“There is absolutely no money out of pocket for Fannin County,” Doss assured the board.
“This is personal for me,” Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson said, expressing his thoughts on the crisis itself. Johnson stated it is not uncommon for workers in the construction industry to be prescribed opioids due to injury from accident.
Mentioning that he has personally witnessed some hard workers succumb to addiction, Johnson added, “It’s just a shame to see what it does to people’s lives.”
Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee motioned that the county enter into litigation concerning the opioid impact on our area, with Johnson seconding Sosebee’s motion. The board voted unanimously in favor of moving forward.
Doss could not give an exact timeline, but estimated that if the suit were successful, Fannin County could start recouping monies lost in two to three years.
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