MOUNT PLEASANT — It’s no secret that opioids have plagued municipalities and states all across the nation. Some of those affected entities have banded together to join a lawsuit against some of the largest pharmaceutical companies, claiming negligence on the companies’ part.

Mount Pleasant is considering becoming one of those municipalities seeking compensation for expenses related to responding to the impact of the opioid crisis on the village.

On Monday, the Village Board unanimously approved retaining the law firm of Phipps Deacon Purnell, based in San Antonio, to possibly join the lawsuit against large pharmaceutical companies that, some allege, are somewhat at fault for the opioid crisis.

Village Attorney Chris Smith said the lawsuit alleges that some pharmaceutical companies engaged in misleading practices with regard to educating the public and health care providers about the dangers of over-prescribing opioids, and with regard to their highly addictive nature.

“It’s a major problem, it puts a strain on governmental entities and it’s especially a strain on the local level,” Smith said.

First step

Similar actions have already been taken by the state and by Racine County. In December 2017, the county joined a lawsuit against several major prescription drug manufacturers; in May, the State of Wisconsin joined a lawsuit related to the opioid crisis.

Retaining the law firm, Smith said, is the first step for the village to recover any claims related to opioids.

“There are claims that we potentially have to recover costs over the past 10 to 15 years of responding to opioid-related calls, Narcan administration, all of those kind of things,” Smith said.

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The cost to the village to retain the law firm is minimal, but might require some staff time, which Smith believes will not be excessive.

“The fee to (join the lawsuit), as far as legal fees goes, is all contingent on any recovery,” Smith said. “No out-of-pocket expenses for the village.”

Racine County Medical Examiner Michael Payne said that there were 33 confirmed fatal overdoses between Jan. 1, 2018 and April 5, 2019 in Racine County.

Of that number, 27 overdoses are considered accidental, whereas the other six have been classified as suicides or undetermined.

Another six cases are waiting on test results, Payne said, which could bump the fatal-overdose total to as high as 39.

To read more stories related to the response to opioids in Racine County subscribe here.

“There are claims that we potentially have to recover costs over the past 10 to 15 years of responding to opioid related calls, Narcan administration, all of those kind of things.” Chris Smith, village attorney

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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