November 7, 2017 11:14:59 AM
Oktibbeha County supervisors decided to wait before joining the county with a class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.
Rayford Chambers, an attorney with Jackson-based Chambers and Gaylor Law Firm, LLC, approached supervisors during Monday's meeting to ask if the county would join the class action suit his firm is pursuing.
Chambers said the opioid epidemic has placed a great strain on entities such as law enforcement, education institutions and health care providers.
"We seek to pursue a claim to make manufacturers pay for that," Chambers said. "It's not a case against any doctors or hospitals or medical providers. It's strictly against medicine (manufacturers)."
Opioids are a class of drug with the primary purpose of reducing pain. Legal opioids can be prescribed by medical providers and include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine and fentanyl. Illegal opioids include drugs like heroin and variants of fentanyl and other synthetic substances.
According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, 32,532 prescriptions for opioids were written in Oktibbeha County in 2016. With the county's population at 49,833, that works out to 0.65 prescriptions per person -- the lowest rate in the Golden Triangle.
Finer details of the proposed lawsuit were not immediately available Monday and The Dispatch couldn't reach Chambers for more information by press time. However, he said the county would have to describe opioids a public nuisance to move forward with a lawsuit.
At a question from District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller, Chambers said about 10 counties in Mississippi have agreed to the lawsuit, and said he could provide supervisors with a list of which counties. He said "hundreds" of counties nationwide are seeking action against opioid manufacturers.
Chambers said his firm had representatives in Adams and Jackson counties Monday morning making the same request.
Counties and cities have sued opioid manufacturers, Chambers said, with Birmingham, Alabama, being the largest city to do so thus far.
Supervisors may consider the suit again at the board's next meeting, which is set for Nov. 14.
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said he wants to hear from board attorney Jack Brown before he decides what to do.
"I would like to hear what our attorney has to say before taking any action," Howard said.
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