Nearly every county in Arkansas is joining forces by filing a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The lawsuit, started by the Association of Arkansas Counties, is bringing together mayors, fire chiefs, sheriffs and county judges from all over to address the Natural State’s addiction to painkillers.
“The leaders of this state, and each county have gotten together and said this is national level big, and it could get national level big right in our own backyard,” said Kyle Sylvester, Washington County Circuit Clerk.
Arkansas has one of the highest prescribing rates for painkillers in the country, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention.
As of right now, 69 of the 75 counties, and 100 cities in Arkansas have put on a united front suing opioid manufacturers. Some of the counties in the suit include, Washington, Madison and Sebastian county.
“We’re all seeing the effects of these drugs and we’re all paying a price for the effects of these drugs,” said Chief Deputy Hobe Runion with the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office.
Runion said painkillers have made an impact on crime in the area.
“When you combine the addictiveness of these opioids, you combine that with the mental health issues we’re having, the homeless..they’re all tied together,” said Runion.
Runion said the lawsuit holds the pharmaceutical companies responsible for supplying the med that caused the problem in the first place.
“We feel like it was misrepresented, and they basically pushed this on the public,” said Runion.
Sylvester said local governments desperately need funding to fight the issue.
“To be able to have rehab facilities, to be able to put programs together to help combat the crisis that we’re in. And that takes a lot of money,” said Sylvester.
Sylvester said change can happen much quicker on a local level, so to save thousands of lives, it’s crucial to have the recourses needed to be effective.
“If we don’t have the means to help people where they need help, to educate people where they need educated then it’s just going to persist and continue to get worse,” said Sylvester.
As of right now, Benton County is not about of the lawsuit. But the county said they’ll be joining the litigation within the next week to ten days.