ALLEN COUNTY — Allen County Commissioners approved entering into contract with Cory, Meredith, Witter & Smith to represent the county in a consolidated case seeking financial commitments from pharmaceutical companies to address the opioid crisis as per County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick’s recommendation.
The extent of the opioid crisis in the region has slowly been stretching county departments, such as law enforcement, addiction centers and child services. Joining the case could help pay for those problem areas, Allen County Commissioner Jay Begg said.
The number of opiate-related overdose deaths in 2017 in Allen County has yet to be determined, Allen County Coroner’s Assistant Jamie Sizemore said. The state is backed up with so many potential cases, the Allen County Coroner’s Office is waiting on cause of death determinations stretching back to last fall.
Sizemore did confirm that compared to the 31 overdose deaths in Allen County in 2016, that number has increased in 2017.
“I think we’ve stretched our law enforcement. They’re being asked to deal with situations that weren’t around a few years ago,” Begg said.
The eventual payout, if the case succeeds, could take years before any actual funds are allocated to Allen County. Until that time, the law firm selected to represent Allen County, Cory, Meredith, Witter & Smith, will be working pro bono and instead will receive a portion of the potential payout for its services.
The City of Lima has entered a similar contract with the law firm.
“From a resource standpoint from the county’s perspective, it’s probably the best way we can be a part of it instead of making our own case,” Begg said.
“This is one avenue to help address the issue.” Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said. “This is an issue that needs to be fought on many fronts.”
“We obviously know that there’s a crisis and an issue in Allen County and the surrounding area. … That’s where our prosecutor steps in and takes the best course of action, and I appreciate the effort he has taken to put this together.” Noonan said.
Provisional numbers put together by the Centers for Disease Control report a 35.7 percent increase in the number of drug overdose deaths that occurred in Ohio between the 12-month periods prior to August 2016 and August 2017.
“I haven’t heard anybody tell us it’s getting better,” Begg said. “We have a serious problem, and it’s continuing.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.