HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A new tool is being considered in the continuing battle against the opioid epidemic sweeping the country and the coast. That tool is the lawsuit. Harrison County supervisors voted Monday to consider filing litigation against the makers of narcotic painkillers and those who prescribe them.
"The cost of this opioid epidemic is tremendous. It's a tremendous cost to the taxpayers. You've got your hospitals, your inmates, mental health treatment, all of these services," Supervisor Beverly Martin said.
That burden on taxpayers is widespread, even in jails.
"It impacts us because we arrest people for it, obviously," Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson said. "It impacts us because we're housing people for drug addiction instead of crimes. It makes our numbers go up in the jail tremendously for housing people that are waiting to go to rehab."
Similar to the tobacco wars of 20 years ago, taking on big medicine is risky, but worth it for Supervisor Marlin Ladner.
"I think we have to take the chance and see if we can help our local taxpayers. Because this thing is going to get out of hand, it's costing a lot of money," Ladner said.
That money adds up for paramedics and other first responders.
"It absolutely is the training that we have to have, in case," Harrison County Fire Marshal Pat Sullivan said. "It's the equipment that we have to buy, in case. In addition to the fact that we are rolling, we have to be prepared for it, so we're spending money even if we don't roll out of the station."
With Harrison County potentially suing pharmaceutical companies, they're taking on an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars, with plenty of lobbying power. But still, they are confident.
"The lawyers that have been doing this have done this in the past, and they're very well schooled in it and the evidence is pretty strong. There has been a proliferation of this type of medication just being fully available over the last 10 years to the point that it's become an epidemic," Harrison County Attorney Tim Holleman said.
As of now, there has been no timetable set for any litigation to be filed against pharmaceutical companies or doctors who over-prescribe opioids.