CLEVELAND (AP) - Ohio's attorney general says he's encouraged by the start of talks to pursue a settlement with pharmaceutical companies and distributors facing more than 250 federal lawsuits over the nation's opioid epidemic.
Attorneys general from six states, representatives from other states and dozens of attorneys from both sides gathered Wednesday in U.S. District Judge Dan Polster's courtroom in Cleveland to make presentations and answer the judge's questions.
Polster has been assigned to broker a national settlement. He closed his courtroom to the public and media Wednesday.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, asked by Polster to speak on behalf of states that have sued the industry in state court, says Polster is "dead serious" about a reaching a resolution.
Around 42,000 people in the U.S. died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish gave this statement after Wednesday's hearing:
The solution to this epidemic lies not only with curtailing and limiting the manufacture and distribution of opioids but also addressing the needs of all those who suffer from opioid addiction and the financial impact of that addiction on local government. This year alone in Cuyahoga County more than 80,000 people are fighting for their life due to opioid addiction. The numbers of people impacted by addiction in Cuyahoga County have impacted the County in a multitude of ways.
In 2017 alone, the Medical Examiner’s Office saw an increase in operational costs due to opioid related deaths of 1.54 million dollars. The cost to the Sheriff’s Department for housing inmates identified as opioid users in 2017 totaled more than 19 million dollars. Seven Thousand Eight Hundred inmates were identified as opioid users in the jail last year. The costs to Health and Human Services in our County due to the opioid crisis has been extensive. In 2016 alone the County’s Health and Human Services Department was faced with 483 cases of drug-exposed babies. That number grew to 535 in 2017. More than 2,100 children and teens are in temporary or permanent custody of the County. Sadly this increase in need is becoming more difficult to serve due to a declining number of foster homes and in-network foster homes.I want to thank this Court for undertaking the difficult task of seeking resolution to this litigation in a way that prevents more needless loss of life and helps local government to obtain the resources necessary to combat this crisis.