Nueces County Commissioners voted Tuesday to hire two law firms to represent taxpayers in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that produce highly addictive opioid drugs.
It's an effort to grasp control over the growing number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses.
Officials received a shocking statistic Tuesday -- Nueces County is leading the state of Texas in the number of people who die from opioid related causes.
"Nueces County has been impacted by this more than any other county in the state of Texas," Commissioner Mike Pusley said.
That is why Nueces County is joining with local and state governments accross the country to argue that taxpayers are bearing the financial burden associated with opioid addiction.
"Well what we would hope to gain is reimbursment for the money the County has had to put out through the hospital district, through law enforcement, our district attorney's office, through our courts," Pusley said. "I mean the majority of what we try here in our courthouse is drug cases. People who have been arrested for distribution of drugs. Drug abuse issues. All those kinds of things, and it impact us here a great deal."
Among the biggest expenses is rehab, and one need look no further than the largest local recovery facility in South Texas, Charlie's Place.
"We served just under 2,100 patients last year," Charlie's Place CEO Amy Grandberry said.
Grandberry sees the problem of opioid addiction every day.
"For the second year in a row, heroin was our number one drug of choice of the people who come for treatment," Grandberry said. "Prior to that it had been alcohol, and for the last two years it has been heroin with opiate prescriptions also rising at the same time."
Texas is currently number two in the U.S. for health care costs associated with opioid abuse. That means counties are stuck footing the bill to help treat people who cannot afford to pay for services.
So now, commissioners have hired two law firms in hopes of making pharmaceutical companies pay their share.
"If we're the largest one in the state of the Texas, obviously it's going to be substantial," Pusley said. "We're talking millions of dollars."
Pusley said he believes pharmaceutical companies conspired to deceive doctors and their patients into believing the drugs were not addictive and would not lead to other addictions like heroin use.
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