Clermont County to file lawsuit against drug distributors

Posted at 12:01 PM, Jul 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-13 19:23:43-04

BATAVIA, Ohio -- Clermont County plans to sue drug distributors who control the supply of controlled substances in the region, the Clermont County Board of Commissioners announced Thursday.

County commissioners declared opiate abuse a “public nuisance” at their Wednesday session and said the county needs to be reimbursed for “its various expenditures related to the opiate crisis.”

President David Uible said the county’s public funds are not sufficient enough to address the opioid crisis.

“Our law enforcement and courts are greatly taxed by this," Uible said. "Our social service agencies such as Children’s Protective Services are busier than ever as families are being split apart. There is virtually no part of county government that has not been impacted by this."

In 2015, 94 people died from a drug overdose in Clermont County, according to county data. Of those overdoses, the drug fentanyl -- which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine -- was present in 51 cases. The county has seen a 2,000 percent increase in overdoses over the last decade. 

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a lawsuit May 31 his office filed against the five largest manufacturers of opiates. Pharmaceutical companies, he said, undermine the risk of addiction, creating a “human tragedy of epic proportions.”

Sheriff Steve Leahy said he is glad steps are being taken to alleviate the costs of the opiate epidemic. He said the jail runs close to maximum population every day. 

“We’re trying to keep our head above water, and keep people who are in jail who need to be in jail," he said. 

Clermont County Commissioner Ed Humphrey echoed the county’s concern regarding lack of resources.

He said the treatment center, which is used as an alternative to jail, is expensive to fund. He also said more funds are necessary for education and other preventative measures.

“We would put more money into law enforcement, the justice system, and treatment and recovery. We have many needs in the County, and this would help us meet those needs,” Humphreys said.

The Board of Commissioners, the prosecuting attorney, and the Court of Common Pleas are jointly retaining the law firm of Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel of Huntington, West Virginia.

The date the lawsuit will be filed has not been determined.