Loudoun County could seek nearly $80M in damages related to opioid crisis

On Behalf of | May 24, 2019 | Working for Justice Blog

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By Nathaniel Cline, [email protected]

Loudoun County could seek nearly $80 million in damages related to the nation’s opioid epidemic, the Board of Supervisors determined Thursday night.

Following a closed session meeting, the Board of Supervisors directed County Attorney Leo Rogers to retain and work with Sanford Heisler Sharp, Kaufman & Canoles LLP and the Cicala Law Firm PLLC to initiate and prosecute ligation against opioid manufacturers and recover costs incurred.

A board-initiated cost assessment found the county has a claim for at least $79.6 million over the last five years in the areas of criminal justice costs, emergency services costs, school system costs, mental health costs, family and children’s services Act costs and other expenses.

Opioids, commonly used for pain relief, can be addictive with severe drawbacks and accounted for more than 47,000 deaths in 2017 in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffered from substance-use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 652,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (not mutually exclusive). An estimated $78.5 billion per year has been spent on prescription opioid misuse in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Costs include health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement.

Nearly a year ago, the Board of Supervisors directed county staff to assess the damages to law enforcement, emergency and health services. Counsel in 26 Virginia localities has filed suit against opioid manufacturers. Some of the nearby localities include the counties of Arlington, Fauquier, Prince William and the City of Alexandria.

The board voted 8-0-1, with Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) absent.

“It’s not just opioids, it’s substance dependence disorder as a whole that is a scourge on a society and has caused the deaths of so many,” Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), a mental health therapist by trade, said last summer. “Opioids by themselves caused the deaths of between 75 and 115 people per day in America, and at some point there needs to be some reckoning of how we got to this place. And so I support all options for prevention, education, rehabilitation, but also reckoning to how the opioid and substance abuse crisis in total has become so out of control.”