LIMA — Allen County will join with Ohio and other municipalities in its lawsuit against major opioid distributors and manufacturers, a move which local officials hope will increase the county’s chances of receiving money as Ohio gets ready to settle or try its case against the distributors and manufacturers.
The One Ohio plan — a unified approach to the lawsuits, advocated by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost — would distribute 30% of settlement funds to municipalities and just 15% for the state, while the remaining 55% would be used to establish a statewide opioid research and education foundation.
The Allen County Commissioners called a special meeting on Friday to adopt a resolution authorizing the county’s participation in One Ohio, at the recommendation of Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick.
“We’re trying to get money to the county as quickly as possible,” Waldick said.
Funds designated for municipalities will be distributed based on the counties, cities or townships with the highest number of overdoses and opioid cases, Waldick said.
There were 632 emergency department visits for suspected drug overdoses in Allen County in 2017, according to Ohio Department of Health data. While those overdoses have since fallen — there were 350 such cases in 2018 and 332 in 2019 — Waldick said settlement money could help offset the costs associated with responding to the crisis.
“We were hit pretty hard,” Waldick said. “That stretched our resources for EMS, fire departments. Those people who are overdosing are taking illegal drugs, so law enforcement is involved as well. We’re trying to get some of that money back.”
Allen County first filed its case in 2018 as part of a larger group of lawsuits from more than 250 jurisdictions, who are suing opioid makers and distributors for their alleged role in fueling the opioid crisis, in a process known as multi-district litigation.
The One Ohio plan, which Allen County joined on Friday, allows the attorney general to represent participating counties, cities and townships across the state when Ohio’s case goes before a federal judge in Cleveland later this year.
Those counties and cities would have otherwise had to wait their turn — a process which could take years, risking the possibility that distributors and manufacturers targeted in the lawsuits would have filed for bankruptcy before individual settlements are reached.
“It’s a plan to stand together,” said Bethany McCorkle, communications director for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Cuyahoga and Summit counties have already reached a $325 million settlement in what is known as a bellwether trial, the first of its kind.
McCorkle said there is some urgency for Ohio, as New York is slated to have its opioid damages case heard soon.
“There’s not going to be enough money for everyone across the country to settle and come up with exactly what they want,” she said.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.