Opioid settlement may net $1.2M

Counterfeit pills confiscated during an arrest in Hudson in April. The pills appeared consistent with oxycodone, but were actually made of fentanyl, police said at the time. File photo

Greene County could receive up to $1.2 million by entering into a settlement agreement with opioid manufacturers regarding the opioid crisis.

According to a resolution approved by the Greene County Legislature’s Government Operations Committee, the legislature can authorize the county attorney to enter into settlement agreements with the defendants in the suit.

The county is named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, titled County of Greene v. Purdue Pharma L.P., et al, in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County. The lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers contributed to the epidemic by “engaging in and without limitation deceptive acts and practices, false advertising, creating a public nuisance, violations of Social Service Law, fraud, unjust enrichment and failure to comply with their obligations under the Federal Controlled Substances Act and the New York Controlled Substances Act.”

According to Attorney General Letitia James’ office, the county could receive between $685,451 and $1,183,578. The funds come from settlements James negotiated following her March 2019 lawsuit against various manufacturers and distributors responsible for the opioid crisis, according to an Oct. 5 statement from the office.

Greene County attorney Ed Kaplan has approved settlement agreements and releases with defendants Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corporation, Inc. — also known as the “Big 3”, according to the resolution. The resolution is up for approval by the full county legislature Wednesday.

“If we meet all the criteria, if we jump through everything properly, some of the monies are unrestricted, some are restricted — they’re earmarked for certain ways you may or may not be able to spend it,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said the minimum the county could receive is $978,000 if it doesn’t meet the necessary requirements.

“Certainly something is better than nothing,” he said.

The lawsuit was filed in January 2018 by Simmons Hanly Conroy, a national law firm that also filed similar suits on behalf of Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Orange, Schenectady, Seneca, Suffolk and Sullivan counties. The lawsuits, which were initially filed in the state supreme courts in each county, were consolidated in state Supreme Court of Suffolk County.

“The defendants have manufactured, promoted and marketed opioids by omitting critical information that has long been known about the drugs’ addictive qualities and other risks associated with their prolonged use,” Paul Hanly, lead counsel for the county, said in a statement.

The settlement funds do not include money from Purdue Pharma or the Sackler family, James said.

Kaplan said Monday the settlement was essentially an “agreement of adhesion.”

“If you didn’t agree to the settlement as proposed, you were out of the multi-state litigation and on your own,” he said.

According to the law firm, the county reported nine deaths in 2017 were caused by overdoses involving opioids and eight hospitalizations occurred due to opioid overdoses.

Greene County is among the counties hardest hit in the state by the opioid epidemic, according to health officials.

Jason Fredenberg, county director of community services and mental health, and Laura Churchill, deputy director of Greene County Public Health, presented the county’s response to the health crisis to the Greene County Legislature on Sept. 1.

“Unfortunately, Greene County is not doing well with regard to the opioid epidemic,” Fredenberg said.

The county is among those hardest hit in the state by the “opioid burden,” which considers overdose deaths, nonfatal emergency room visits and opioid abuse and dependence, according to 2018 data from the state Department of Health.

“In a recent study, when they looked at the opioid burden in Greene County, it was 33% higher than the rest of the Capital Region and 45% higher than the state as a whole, so Greene County has been hit very hard,” Fredenberg said.

The number of overdose fatalities in the county has been on the rise in recent years, he said.

“In 2019, there were nine, in 2020 there were 14, and in 2021, as of July 31, we were already up to 11, so that number is increasing each year,” Fredenberg said.

The suit also cites the financial strain the epidemic put on county services, residents and employees, according to the firm.

“Human services, social services, court services, law enforcement services, the office of the coroner/medical examiner and health services, including hospital, emergency and ambulatory services, have all been severely impacted by the crisis. For example, as a direct and foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ egregious conduct, the counties have paid, and continue to pay, millions of dollars for health care costs stemming from prescription opioid dependency,” the firm said in a statement.

Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn said year-to-date, Greene County has 106 total suspected overdoses reported and 12 fatal suspected overdoses reported.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

(1) comment

scottmyers

This is the same Kaplan who, with Groden, made a new county debt of $90 million for human cages. I provoked the 20 Alternatives To Incarceration ("ATI") meetings, which the county ignored. The $90 million debt means a 20 year 20% tax increase. We have declining per-capita and population. Only 13 of the 1,150 businesses in Greene County are minority owned. There's almost no minorities on the Village of Catskill Police Dept., with similar poor ratios on the other town and village police depts. The State Police routinely abuse people here. The local Baracks lacks administrative review.

The root cause of addiction is poverty and education. The above shows a misplaced priority towards human cages from competent mental health and social services.

The problem is of our own creation. Money from professional drug dealers doesn't solve the root cause. It's a patch on an injury, and again, the injury is self-inflicted by bad pliicies by Greene County.

We must do better!

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