Commissioners were right to join opioid lawsuit

  • Friday, June 22, 2018 1:15pm
  • Opinion

Pharmaceutical companies continue to make astonishing amounts of money selling pills that can turn some people into addicts.

These companies are accused of misleading the public in the marketing and distribution of opioid medication, leading to an epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse. It’s an epidemic of overdoses, crime and ruined lives.

The Island County commissioners made the right decision when they recently voted, 2-1, to join multi-district, national litigation against opioid manufacturers. It’s right to hold these companies accountable. It’s right that they should help pay for the battle against the epidemic.

Under the agreement, the firm representing the cities and counties will only get paid if the lawsuit is successful.

Commissioner Rick Hannold expressed understandable frustration when he voted against the resolution. He said that the only way to fix the problem is for law enforcement to arrest dealers and get the supply of opioids off the street.

That approach has already been tried. It’s called the War on Drugs and it did little to get drugs off the street. The number of people addicted to drugs has little correlation with law enforcement efforts.

Opioid addiction is a particularly devastating ailment and it has taken hold on Whidbey Island. Medical professionals at the county jail said that 70 to 80 percent of inmates were addicted to opioids when they come in.

According to the resolution, nine Island County residents died from opioid overdoses last year. Six of those were from prescription opioids. The number of people receiving behavioral health services with an opioid diagnosis has increased steadily and will have doubled between 2016 and the end of 2018.

Programs such as drug court and medication-assisted treatment in the jail are successful, but they are not silver bullets.

Progress is slow. The most successful programs seem to deal with one person at a time.

The companies that helped create these problems in our society need to help pay for these efforts.

It’s the least they can do.

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