Summit County Declares an Opioid State of Emergency, Prepares to Sue Drug Companies and Distributors

Oct 25, 2017

Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro has declared a state of emergency caused by the county's opioid crisis and is preparing to sue drug makers and distributors.
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU public radio

Summit County is preparing to sue the companies that make and distribute addictive painkillers. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the lawsuit the county expects Akron, Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls and others will join  --  on the declaration by the county of a state of emergency.

At her state of the county address, county Executive Ilene Shapiro announced the plans to file the suit in a few weeks. She says the opioid epidemic has cost local taxpayers nearly $112 million over the last five years, and is likely to cost as much as $165 million over the next five.

Shapiro says she became convinced the suit was warranted because of growing evidence that the drug companies “deceitfully and maliciously flooded our community.”

“When you realize and get the information and understand what has really been perpetrated -- letting our physicians believe these were non-addictive drugs and so forth, it gets your ire up. And if f we won’t step up and speak out, who will?”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has sued the manufacturers of the drugs, but not the wholesalers -- like Ohio-based Cardinal Health – that distribute them. Dayton and Lorain have already sued both groups.

Meanwhile, Shapiro today declared Summit County in a state of emergency caused by the opioid crisis. 

Shapiro said the state of emergency will allow the county to be prepared when more federal money becomes available.


“If funds are allocated, we believe that will put us in the forefront of being able to access those funds immediately, as opposed to going out and get a plan and then submitting.”

President Trump is expected to declare a national state of emergency tomorrow. It’s unclear what law enforcement and treatment changes will come with that.

Summit County also plans to allow two nonprofits to build an inpatient and aftercare facility on the now vacant land that was Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Hospital. And it plans to sue the makers and distributors of the highly addictive painkillers. 

Here's the complete address by County Executive Ilene Shapiro: