NEW CITY, NY – Rockland County Executive Ed Day announced today that the county is taking legal action against pharmaceutical companies that made and sold prescription opioids that contributed to the epidemic of abuse.
“This opioid epidemic is exacting a huge toll on Rockland County both in terms of lives lost and the cost of medical and psychological care to treat the victims,” he said.
So far this year, there have been 16 drug-related deaths in Rockland County, all but one involving opioids, according to Day.
“We want accountability. We want justice. That is why we are using the legal system to bring this deadly epidemic back to the corporations that started it – the pharmaceutical companies,” he said. “They need to take responsibility.”
A 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total economic burden of prescription opioid and heroin abuse nationwide is $78.5 billion annually, with a quarter of that amount paid by government programs funded by the taxpayer.
The County Executive submitted a resolution to the Rockland County Legislature today to authorize representation by the New York City law firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy, a leader in the field of opioid litigation.
The Legislature is being asked to authorize a contract that may exceed $100,000 to begin this legal process.
“Not a cent of this cost will come from the pockets of our Rockland taxpayers,” the County Executive said. “This cost will be paid from any settlement they reach on our behalf, if there is one. If not, we don’t have to pay.”
SHC is representing numerous counties in New York, including Suffolk, Orange, Erie and Broome as well as governments and institutions across the nation.
The law firm has a long history with this type of litigation. They started in 2003 with legal action against Purdue Pharma LLP and Abbott Laboratories, Inc., for damages suffered by more than 5,000 clients prescribed the opioid OxyContin.
“We ask the Legislature to be our partner in this process,” the County Executive said.
He submitted letters of support for the legal action from District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, Commissioner of Health Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert and Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Leitzes.
Day praised their efforts as part of Rockland County’s strategy to battle the opioid epidemic.
“We have taken a combined approach of treatment, education, prevention and law enforcement to fight this scourge in our community,” he said.
Rockland County has also taken the battle into the community by offering the lifesaving opioid antidote Narcan to residents in case they ever need to administer it to someone in the throes of an overdose.
The County Executive will be at the Fire Training Center tomorrow where 100 county employees will learn how to administer Narcan.
“We will fight on every front to save lives,” he said.