BURNET — Burnet County commissioners could join a lawsuit with more than two dozen other Texas counties to recoup the cost from pharmaceutical companies they believe have fueled opioids abuse and placed a financial burden on entities and resources combating the crisis.
The law firm of Simon, Greenstone, Panatier, Bartlett PC and Cappolino Dodd Krebs LLP Attorneys at Law have asked the Burnet County Commissioners Court to join them and 26 other counties in the pending litigation.
The court will meet Dec. 21 to vote on a resolution to give the attorneys power to collect evidence and compile figures among several local entities to determine the extent and cost of opioids abuse in Burnet County.
Opioids, typically associated with the illicit drug heroin, also include legal prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycontin, methadone, and morphine.
“A lot of cases are being filtered through the CPS (Child Protective Services) system related to opioid abuse,” Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo said. “There’s also a connection to increased number of criminal cases. All that leads to increased costs in courts and the need for more law enforcement.”
Research by the law firms could hasten full participation by the county in the legal action.
“The goal is to recover some of the funds that the pharmaceutical companies have amassed and allow that to be used for more education, rehabilitation, and law enforcement,” said attorney Richard Dodd of Cappolino Dodd Krebs LLP Attorneys at Law.
Arredondo said local officials can point to “anecdotal” evidence of the impact on county and law enforcement resources, but legal action could uncover statistics that detail the financial toll on the county.
“Pharmaceutical companies could be responsible for the damages,” Arredondo said.
Research may also reveal more information about how and why the crisis has unfolded.
“There are possession cases, sometimes, where people are abusing their prescription medication. Sometimes, people are in possession of opioids illegally,” Arredondo said. “The true damage comes from the addictions. There are good, decent people finding themselves, through no fault of their own, getting addicted to these medications because they’ve had an injury of some sort.”
The ultimate goal of the litigation would be to halt the crisis.
“We know that addiction has no boundaries and destroys families and communities,” Dodd said. “If nothing else, we hope that it spreads the word and educates the community about this issue so that more people do not fall into the throngs of addiction.”