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Jackson could receive $600,000 as part of a historic opioid settlement

Posted at 12:53 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 12:53:35-05

JACKSON, Mich. — The city of Jackson could receive $600,000 as part of a multi-billion dollar national opioid settlement.

City council unanimously approved two resolutions to join a massive lawsuit that targeted pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: Cardinal Health, McKesson and Amerisource Bergen.

As a result of the lawsuit the state of Michigan stands to receive $800 million.

“What that means for the city of Jackson is we are due to get $600,000 and that would be paid out over 18 years and that means it would be breaking down into $34,000 a year,” Public Information Officer Aaron Dimick said.

The money has to go towards drug abuse prevention and the Jackson Police Department.

Makers of OxyContin to plead guilty to 3 charges as part of $8 billion lawsuit
FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2013 file photo, OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. A Nevada legislator asked the drug company that makes OxyContin to turn over information about Nevada doctors suspected of overprescribing the powerful pain medication. Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, wrote a letter to the president of the drug-maker Purdue Pharam on FridayAug. 16, 2013 saying the company has an ethical duty to provide the information to the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners. The Las Vegas Democrat is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and longtime backer of efforts to curb prescription drug abuse. He made the request days after two California lawmakers did the same based on a Los Angeles Times' article that the company has a database of 1,800 doctors who showed signs of dangerous prescribing, but has referred only 154 cases to authorities since 2002. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

According to city officials, police and fire services have sometimes been sent out to drug related calls multiple times a day over the last few years.

“When you have so many people who are overdosing all the time on opioids or the other drugs that it leads to, it really takes a lot of city resources,” Dimick said. “It takes our police and our fire personnel away from other duties that they might have or other calls they might be going to. Then for the police department it really takes a lot of time to investigate where the drugs are coming from and how the overdose happened. It has been a huge burden on our city government, and it is has cost us thousands of dollars.”

Henry Ford Allegiance Health saw several waves of opiate addiction starting back in 2008, according to emergency physician Dr. Rami Khoury.

“We were ranked pretty high and then we started doing some work with opiates and reducing prescriptions,” he said. “We saw a dip and then we saw a spike in heroin, which we expected to see. We saw a dip in pill use. Then you had another spike when you started getting the synthetic spiked carfentanil, which hit kind of mid-teens. Jackson at that point was the highest in the state and was 25th in the country for opiates and overdoses at that point.”

The trend in opiate usage went down after 2017 according to Khoury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Michigan had a decrease in drug overdose deaths in 2018-19 of 8.3 percent. But, Khoury says usage is going back up because of COVID.

CDC logo
FILE - This Nov. 19, 2013 file photo shows a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo at the agency's federal headquarters in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

“Some of the issues that COVID kind of brought out which increased anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc., and when people are left to their own devices without human interaction, sometimes it comes very difficult, especially in a state where in the winter times we’re inside a lot and you don’t see the sun a lot,” Khoury said. “I think it becomes detrimental. In the last data going from April 2020 to April 2021, you saw a 30 percent increase in overdose deaths in the United States and around 70 percent of which were opiates.”

Dr. Charles Smith knows all too well the dangers of taking too many opiates.

“In 2009, after being a family practice physician for 26 years, I went to treatment myself for opiate addiction as well as alcohol addiction,” Smith said.

He says his addiction started with alcohol.

“I would come in with really severe hangovers and one morning I said, 'Hmm, I wonder if these would help?' and the next 20 years were essentially a blur. I progressed from hydrocodone within the Vicodin to Percocet such as oxycodone then eventually oxycontin,” he said.

He said he would write himself fraudulent prescriptions for 3,000 opioid pills a month.

“Initially I was just able to survive on samples that the drug company lab, there is even a time period I ordered them wholesales from office supply magazines if they were going to be dispensed to patients then, near the end, my addiction grew so much I needed so many that I was writing fraudulent prescriptions, I was making up people’s names and taking them to different drugstores around the area and filling them,” he said.

Smith said, when he was a practicing family physician, sales representatives would call on them to use Oxycontin.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say high pressure sales but definitely they flooded the market with the indication to be compassionate, help your patients which most physicians want to do, then once the patients received this medication it did relieve their pain. They just weren’t forewarned of what was coming,” he said.

The health experts agree that education and compassion is key.

“Authorities have done real well in curtailing over prescribing,” Smith said. “However, it’s going to take education. We need to start in grade schools, in junior high schools of educating people and these young children who are susceptible to this.”

“If you’re talking to somebody who is especially this time of year struggling with depression or anxiety and you’re actually talking to them and telling them it’s okay and they’re normal, they’re much more likely to seek help early before something drastic happens,” Khoury added.

Municipalities in Michigan have until Jan. 2 to sign on to the settlement. Michigan needs 95 percent of its municipalities to sign on before the city of Jackson can receive that money.

As for Smith, he is now well into recovery and helping others do the same. He now works for a recovery and rehabilitation center in Florida.

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