Nueces County Commissioners have hired two law firms to sue pharmaceutical companies that produce opioid medications, but it seems no one is keeping track of the just how many people have died from opioid overdoses.
It was announced Tuesday that Nueces County has the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in the state. While rehabilitation experts, doctors, and even the Nueces County Medical Examiner's Office agree the number of cases are up, no one has an actual figure locally.
"Nueces County has been impacted by this more than any other county in the state of Texas," Nueces County Commissioner Mike Pusley said. "We have more opioid addicted people in Nueces County than anywhere else. That's not something we're proud of."
Pusley said the numbers are staggering when it comes the costs to pay for our emergency resources responding to people who overdose from opioid use. However, according to the Nueces County Medical Examiner's Office, although toxicology tests are now conducted on everybody they examine, they do not keep records of the types of drugs a person may have died from.
The same holds true for the City-County Health District. They referred 3News to the Texas Department of State Health Services. A check with hospitals also revealed no records of the numbers of overdoses from opioids.
Still, according to one emergency room doctor, the people being treated for drug overdoses is noticeably high.
"It's bad, and we just have to maybe educate people. Educate the patients, of course, but it's a bad situation. It needs a lot of resources," Dr. Dante Pepito said. "Not only doctors but other resources in the community."
Reporting the statistics of what experts call an epidemic has been a worrisome issue. It seems the tracking of the statistics has been sketchy at best.
"My understanding in Texas is that not all overdoses are reported equally, and it seems not all deaths are reported as an overdose, and particularly by the drugs that caused the death," said Amy Grandberry, CEO of Charlie's Place.
Pusley said the numbers will be key in the lawsuit the County plans to file against pharmaceutical companies. Gathering the data and crunching the numbers are what the two law firms and their investigators will focus on as key evidence in the case.
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