Chambers County moves forward with Opioid Lawsuit

Published 10:05 am Saturday, March 9, 2024

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Chambers County has been a party in Alabama’s class action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies around the country. Counties and cities across the state have filed lawsuits against these companies for their role in the opioid crisis. 

The state recently announced that they reached a $222 million settlement with Cardinal Health and Cencora to be paid over a 10-year period. The state legislature has set up the Oversight Commission on Alabama Opioid Settlement Funds to decide where the settlement goes according to need. 

“The state through a team of attorneys is working towards settlements with the different defendants. we’ve already you know, settled with Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Walgreen, Endo [Pharmeuceticals], several different ones,” said Skip McCoy, Chambers County Attorney. “We’ve already collected on other settlements over $500,000.” 

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With these settlements, all parties must agree on the terms. At Monday night’s commission meeting, the Chambers County Commission agreed to the terms of the $222 million settlement. 

“If all of the participating subdivisions in the Alabama class [action lawsuit] concur, which they have in the past, then we would move forward with that settlement.

Once the Oversight Commission allocates the settlement funds, there are still guidelines the counties and cities must follow. The funds must go to helping those affected by the opioid epidemic. The Chambers County Commission has set up an Opioid Recovery Settlement Fund, said McCoy. While there are some funds in there currently, the attorney said they are waiting to accumulate enough to use the funds needed. 

“It will be used for mental health purposes, it’ll be used for educational purposes, eradication purposes … It can’t even be used for a facility.

In order to join the class-action lawsuit originally, Chambers County had to provide data on how the opioid epidemic has affected the county. McCoy said this included information on opioid arrests and incarceration rates, addiction and treatment statistics, and other data points that paint the picture within Chambers. 

Alabama was one of four states to decline to join the national litigation of these companies. Instead, the state filed a class action lawsuit which cities and counties would take part in. McCoy said there are over 100 parties in the lawsuit. 

In a 2022 press release, Alabama’s Attorney General Steve Marshall said the national litigation, “Did not adequately acknowledge the unique harm that Alabamians have endured and would have redirected millions of dollars to bigger states that experienced a less severe impact.”

McCoy said the Commission has not decided exactly where the funds will go however, they are looking at expanding the services offered, specifically to mental health services, at Health and Wellness Center  

“It’s one thing physical, medical problems, but there’s just as much if not more mental health problems…You the majority of the inmates in the jail, suffer from some type of mental instability,” McCoy said.

The state is continuing to litigate pharmaceutical companies, meaning more settlements are likely to come. 

“The hope is that the abuse that the industry placed on the populace will be addressed through governmental entities, by preparing the people that have been abused by getting them the type of help that they need,” McCoy said.