Several Tenn. counties join case to recover costs of treating those addicted to opioids

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – More than 100 counties across the United States are suing to recover the costs from treating or jailing residents addicted to opioids.

Several Tennessee counties have now joined the list.

Attorney Gerard Stranch is the managing partner for Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings. He has tackled some tough opioid cases in Tennessee, and is one of the lawyers representing several district attorneys in their cases against big drug companies.

“We started digging into it and have started filing cases as a result of it. We represent eight district attorney generals in upper East Tennessee. It spans a total of 24 counties that are on file and are going to file an additional 16 to 20 counties that are under district attorney generals in the next couple of weeks,” said Attorney Gerard Stranch.

Stranch told News 2 that in Sullivan County for example, for every 1,000 births, 52 of those babies are born addicted to opioids and have neonatal abstinence syndrome.

He said one of the hospitals had to build a new wing in children’s hospital to have extra NICU beds to treat all the babies born dependent on opioids.

Stranch told News 2 that in some counties, school leaders are discussing putting Narcan in high schools because of overdoses.

“There are two things that we are seeking monetary wise,” he said. “One is payment for past harm, for where the municipality, the counties the state have had to spend money on DCS for foster care, police powers, jail cells, everywhere they are having to spend money, addiction treatment where they are spending money on the opioid crisis.”

Stranch told News 2 it is going to be very expensive to create programs to help people affected and many Tennessee counties feel the drug manufacturers should be accountable for those costs.

“For the NAS babies, just for an example, there is going to be a 20-year table even if you took every opioid out of every community in America today, in which the government is going to be responsible for early childhood intervention. IEP work for schools and other things, it’s going to be very, very expensive. And those costs should be born by the people who created the problem, not the people who are suffering from them,” said Stranch.

On Nov. 7, 29 Wisconsin counties filed lawsuits and a 37th Kentucky county joined its state association’s effort.