The Onondaga County Legislature is in the process of hiring legal counsel to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors over the costs of the heroin and opioid epidemic. Some legislators say opioid manufacturers lied about the addictive nature of their products.
Although they do not have a number yet, Onondaga County Legislative Chairman Ryan McMahon said whatever amount they end up suing opioid manufacturers for will never be enough.
“The impact on our community is tremendous; the amount of overdoses we’ve had, the amount of deaths we’ve had, the amount of people who are addicted and can’t receive services, what’s happened to their families, the cost to law enforcement, our jails, our mental health, our health care system, even our foster care numbers,” McMahon said. "The profits that have been made off the pain and suffering of these people need to be shared to make sure these people get the treatment they need and to make sure this type of epidemic doesn't happen again."
McMahon said they will hopefully file a lawsuit in the next couple of months and if they win, they can reinvest that money back into the community. He said the opioid epidemic is not a typical, concentrated urban poor drug problem. It affects people across all socioeconomic backgrounds. For many, it started with being prescribed opioids for an injury or pain relief.
“They’ve become addicted, they can no longer get the product or the product becomes too expensive so then they move to the next best thing, which is unfortunately, heroin," McMahon said. "The heroin has been changed, it’s been laced, you’ve had fentanyl abuse."
There were 89 deaths in Onondaga County in 2016 from fentanyl and fentanyl mixed with heroin; more than triple the amount it was the previous year. In 2016, the county had 99 prescription opioid deaths, almost doubled from 2015. Several other counties in New York State have filed their own lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors including Oswego County.
Below are two charts that show opioid deaths in Onondaga County: