The Brownstown Town Council recently became the third Jackson County governmental entity to join lawsuits filed against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
Cities, towns, counties and states are blaming the manufacturers and distributors for the opioid crisis that has affected communities in recent years.
The Jackson County Commissioners expressed their willingness to be a part of the lawsuits in December, and the Seymour City Council joined in January.
Last month, attorney Rodney Farrow shared the letter of agreement and other paperwork with the five Brownstown Town Council members so they could review everything and make a decision.
During their meeting Monday night at the town hall, they unanimously voted to move forward with joining the lawsuits.
While there’s no deadline to sign on, Farrow said the sooner the town joins, the better.
Considering it should be simple to gather the necessary information to file, Councilman Gary Drake said it made sense for Brownstown to get involved.
“I don’t see any reason not to do it. I see a benefit for the town,” he said. “I don’t see any downside, and the information that we’re going to need to put together, that should be, I would think, relatively easy. In fact, Tom (Hanner, police chief) has probably already got all of that.”
If successful, the town could recoup money it has paid police officers for overtime in dealing with opioid-related arrests and overdoses, Farrow said.
Hanner said his department has had officers involved in overdose death investigations, and they have worked with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office on opioid-related cases.
The money also could help the town pay for the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone or Narcan. The police department recently received 30 doses of naloxone, and officers were trained to administer it, but all of that was free through a grant the Jackson County Health Department received.
Hanner, however, said he realizes there could be a time when naloxone isn’t free.
Farrow said there would be no upfront costs for Brownstown to join the lawsuits; however, fees would be collected by Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP at the tail end if they collect anything based on 30 percent contingency.
It will be up to the courts to determine how any money awarded is to be spent, Farrow said.
“Lawsuits tend to get drug out,” he said of not expecting a payout any time soon. “I think it will be a long period of time. It’s not going to be instant.”