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Grayson offered chance to join opioid lawsuit

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Carroll County has opted in to the multi-jurisdictional suit, which seeks to recover costs and damages from harm caused by prescription drugs; Galax is still considering offer

By Shaina Stockton

By LARRY CHAMBERS, Staff

INDEPENDENCE – The Grayson County Board of Supervisors has been given the opportunity to join other Southwest Virginia counties in filing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors has opted to join the lawsuit; Galax City Council is still considering it.

At its regular meeting on May 10, Del. Jeff Campbell of Marion, who represents Carroll, Galax and other counties in the Virginia House of Delegates; and Virginia Sen. Ben Chafin of Hansonville; were joined by two lawyers during a presentation to the board.

The opioid epidemic is the rapid increase in the use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs in the U.S. and Canada, beginning in the late 1990s and continuing throughout the first two decades of the 2000s. Opioids are a diverse class of moderately strong painkillers — including oxycodone, hydrocodone and a very strong painkiller, fentanyl, which is synthesized to resemble other opiates such as opium-derived morphine and heroin.

The possibility of filing a lawsuit has been presented to eight or 10 boards of supervisors in Southwest Virginia. Chafin said at a news conference held at the federal courthouse in Abingdon earlier in the day on May 10 that the boards of Russell, Smyth and Wythe counties have all voted affirmatively to pursue lawsuits, while Washington County will file a lawsuit under different lawyers. Carroll’s board voted to join the lawsuit on Monday.

RELATED: TIPS FOR TALKING TO YOUR MEDICAL PROVIDER ABOUT OPIOIDS

Campbell told the Grayson supervisors that the lawsuits aim to recover millions of dollars lost due to opioid addiction and drug overdoses that have taken many lives in this country and affected the lives of many Southwest Virginians.

Both Campbell and Chafin will represent local counties that choose to pursue litigation, along with Abingdon attorney Kimberly Haugh, attorney Joey Dumas of a law firm in Birmingham, Ala., and the law firm of Wagstaff & Cartnell from Kansas City, Mo. Wagstaff & Cartnell specialize in multidistrict litigation, which consolidates comparable cases into one action.

Campbell said the opioid epidemic was also affecting employers across the state; they can’t hire new employees because many of them can’t pass a drug test.

Dumas told the supervisors that there are more than 400 prescriptions per 100 people per year in Southwest Virginia. He said that was almost five times the national average.

Grayson supervisors took no action on the proposal, pending further study.

One question supervisors posed was the cost to counties; Dumas said that was still being determined.