Burlington County Freeholders aim to fight opioid crisis

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County government is preparing to join the fight in holding the nation’s largest drug companies, distributors and physicians accountable for their role in perpetuating the scourge of substance abuse that is plaguing our communities, Freeholder Deputy Director Linda Hughes said recently.

During a public meeting, the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders is anticipating to authorize a request for proposals for a law firm specialized in opioid litigation on both the state and federal level to represent the county.

“The opioid epidemic has touched the lives of far too many men, women, and their families in every one of our communities,” Hughes said in a press release. “While we continue to provide resources and support to those struggling with addiction, it is not enough to stop this crisis. We must take our fight to the next level.”

Alongside the physical and psychological anguish that individuals abusing opioids live with, the crisis has incurred significant financial impacts on governmental entities who have suffered costs and a loss of resources. Many county departments have been effected in response to the epidemic, including the prosecutor, health and human services, corrections, public safety, courts, as well as the medical examiner.

The county’s potential lawsuit would hold those responsible for knowingly generating and profiting from the opioid epidemic, as well as seeking damages for associated county tax dollars spent to date.

The numerous causes of the opioid crisis range from local physicians over-prescribing opioids to the pharmaceutical representatives incentivizing them, as well as national drug companies and distributors saturating the market with the highly addictive drugs.

“Although no court crafted remedy or any amount of money can replace loved ones or heal the physical and emotional scars suffered by the victims and their families, holding those responsible for the pain, suffering and financial impact their actions have caused would be a step in the right direction,” added Hughes. “We must do everything we can to help save the lives of the people who are living with addiction, and prevent others from succumbing to this horrible disease.”

Hughes stressed that helping county residents overcome opioid addiction will continue to be a priority for her and the Board. Earlier this year she announced the reopening of Post House, a 48-bed county-owned drug and alcohol treatment facility, supported the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program in Burlington County, and helped provide space for bi-weekly support group meetings at the Burlington County Agricultural Center in Moorestown.