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Sterling Heights, Warren, Harrison Township Sue Opioid Manufacturers

April 24, 2019 - 1:08 pm

STERLING HEIGHTS (WWJ) - In an effort to take on the opioid crisis, Sterling Heights, Warren and Harrison Township are going after drug manufacturers, distributors and prescribers.

Each municipality announcing separate but related lawsuits on Wednesday, officials say each will seek damages for what they call the defendants' deliberate and unconscionable efforts to maximize profits at the expense of citizens' lives, families and communities.

Speaking at a news conference at the Sterling Heights Police Department, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor said officials have been working on a number of other ways of tackling opioid epidemic, including getting addicted people treatment rather than locking them up through a program called "Hope Not Handcuffs."

"FAN (Families Against Narcotics) is doing incredible work educating people, educating doctors to make better decisions with prescriptions," Taylor said. "But what we have found, with these manufacturers and distributors, they're putting their profits over the people's lives -- and it has to stop."

First and foremost, Taylor said, the goal of the lawsuits is to hold responsible opioid manufacturers and distributors for what he called "the biggest public health crisis going on in the country right now."

"Personally I think they need to stop what they're doing, they need to stop pushing these drugs onto clinics and onto doctors; and we need to do a job, a better job educating the public about why that's so important." 

Secondly, Taylor said, the lawsuits aim to make sure  Sterling Heights, Warren and Harrison Township are made whole for the incredible cost the epidemic has had locally. 

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said he first began the war against this epidemic back in 2011, with aggressive raids on drug dealers.

"Since then, we have raided drug houses in other cities including Detroit," Fouts wrote, in a Facebook post. "We have issued Narcan to all police and fire. We have seen drug overdoses spike from approximately 8 od's to 32 od’s in one year That was a dramatic increase of 400%. Warren is currently leading a Macomb County Drug Task Force against the drug cartel in this area. Now we are taking on the pharmaceutical companies."

Fouts said there have been 150 drug overdoses in the city of Warren in just the past few years. 

"Related to this issue of drug overdoses, the Warren Police Department was dispatched to the Warren Pain Center for 156 police runs from 2012-2018, and the overdose calls in the city at that time period is listed as 1121.This cost to the city would be at least hundreds of  of thousands of dollars," Fouts said. 

"This is just one cost not including Fire, EMS, and other such costs.," he added. "This also does not include crimes related to drug addicts. This includes breaking and enterings, car thefts and other such problems. The bottom line is this lawsuit that Warren has initiated is about making Big Pharma pay for the damage they have done to average Americans and society as a whole."

As someone who is in long term recovery from drugs and alcohol, FAN Youth Outreach Coordinator David Clayton said he knows firsthand what prescription opioids can do to people. 

"It took as lot of years from my life, and once those prescriptions became too expensive to fund, then heroin is what I turned to," Clayton said. "And traveling the state I get to see the devastation that these opioids are bringing --- wiping out communities, devastating families...and I think these pharmaceutical companies need to be held responsible for this."

Clayton said he believes that once these lawsuits are settled, any money received should go to fund programs to help in communities affected by the crisis.