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City of South Bend latest local government to take opioid manufacturers to court

WSBT 22

The city of South Bend is taking legal action for a major problem in our area. We're talking about the opioid epidemic.

City leaders are taking opioid manufacturers to federal court.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg says the city will file paperwork in the next few days. He's following the lead of other cities and counties across the nation who all say someone needs to be accountable for this opioid epidemic.

"Where we're from, if you helped cause a problem, you should help fix the problem," said Andy Kostielney (R) St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners president.

St. Joseph County and the City of South Bend are just two local governments getting ready to sue opioid manufacturers.

LaPorte and Marshall Counties are also on board.

South Bend's mayor says there are plenty of signs pointing to wrongdoing.

"There's some indication of deceitful practices around the level of addictiveness of these medications,” said Buttigieg. “There's some evidence of trying to push uses that were not appropriate."

City and county budgets are feeling the effects.

"What we're seeing is increased access and expense in our courts and our jails, with our juvenile population as well," said Kostielney.

"We have a lot of EMS runs to deal with overdoses,” said Buttigieg. “The number of Narcan doses – which is a drug that tries to bring somebody back when they're on the brink of a fatal overdose – something on the order of 500 doses administered by our personnel."

The hope is to get some drug companies to foot the bill for a solution.

"We can put the resources that might come out of a settlement here to use right away in benefitting people who are dealing with addiction issues or medical issues or even loss,” said Buttigieg.

It may be a year or more before any of these lawsuits reach any sort of conclusion, but Buttigieg says they remind him of the tobacco industry lawsuits of the late 90s, which were worth it in the long run.

"It is a reminder of the ways in which legal action sometimes is the right thing to do either because it could lead to a settlement or because it could lead to a trial and a finding,” said Buttigieg.

"I think this is an issue that's not going to be able to be ignored, so I think we're going to hopefully see some positive action take place."

Both Kostielney and Buttigieg say this lawsuit is not an attempt to remove opioids from the marketplace entirely. Kostielney says there are plenty of people who need opioids to get through the day, and use those drugs responsibly. Buttigieg says a lawsuit is just an attempt to hold opioid manufacturers and distributers accountable.

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