By Tammy Moore Teague
In March of this year, the Arkansas Municipal League made an unprecedented move in filling a lawsuit against the opioid drug industry. This brazen approach brands the lone state in an effort to recuperate the cost of battling the opioid epidemic. These costs, as the filing contends, should come from the companies that caused the problem instead of the taxpayer. The Hartford City Council will meet tonight and decide if they will join the 72 counties and 210 cities, including Mansfield, participating in the lawsuit.
“Though other lawsuits have been filed in federal courts across the country, Arkansas is the only state that has united in this fashion,” said Executive Director of the Association of Arkansas Counties, Chris Villines. “Instead of fighting and competing with each other on critically needed settlement dollars for our cities and counties, all of the cities and counties are working together to do what’s best for Arkansas.”
The epidemic is one that has touched lives in our state and in our community. The number of overdoses in Arkansas has increased nearly 300 percent since 2000. Cities like Mansfield, have made great stride in combatting the problem by training officers and first responders on how to administer Narcan, an opiate antagonist. It is, however, not enough and comes at a great expense to small towns like Mansfield and Harford, which operate on a shoestring budget.
The Arkansas Municipal League lists 65 drug companies as defendants in the case. The case, which was filed in Crittenden County Circuit Court, is hoped to go to trial within the next two years. “It’s important to us that it moves as quickly as possible,” said Villines. “Every day, new people are becoming addicted to opioids and every day the problem is growing worse.”
In an effort to bolster support, Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck openly supported the lawsuit during the summer session of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association held June 5. If the court finds for the plaintiff, it would provide more resources to both law enforcement and medical personnel.