PIEDMONT — City leaders agreed on Tuesday to enter a cross-jurisdictional lawsuit filed to fight the nationwide opioid epidemic.
The lawsuit is similar to ones cities and counties across the U.S. have joined since last year against nationwide opioid distributors. The goal of such lawsuits is to hold drug distributors accountable and recover money spent dealing with the repercussions of prescription opioid abuse, which has risen sharply nationally over the last decade.
The Piedmont City Council agreed to enter the lawsuit at no cost to the city during its regular meeting Tuesday.
Michelle Franklin, city clerk, said during the meeting that Ron Allen, city attorney, had recommended the council enter the lawsuit.
“A lot of cities across the nation are joining in on this,” Franklin said.
The city of Jacksonville joined a similar lawsuit in December.
The general argument is that over the years, drug distributors and manufacturers used faulty data and encouraged physicians to prescribe powerful opioids more often than they should have, as way to increase revenue.
Abuse of opioids, a group of painkillers that includes heroin and substances available by prescription, has jumped in the last two decades.
“It’s been a problem here for a long time,” said police Chief Freddie Norton. “A majority of our arrests are opioid-type, prescription drug-based … and we’re seeing some heroin now.”
Norton added that drug abuse is often tied to other crimes like thefts and robberies.
“It’s all related,” Norton said.
Also during the meeting, the council agreed to spend $20,637 in fire tax money to buy new water pumping equipment for the Piedmont Fire Department’s brush truck. Fire Chief Mike Ledbetter said the department has no other brush truck and that it would be needed soon for the summer.
The council also agreed to spend $9,200 from the general fund to replace an air conditioner in the Clyde H. Pike Civic Center. Jeff Formby, parks and recreation director, said the new air conditioner will replace a nonfunctional, 30-year-old unit that controls heating and cooling in the center’s banquet hall.
“We rent that out to karate, gymnastics … there’s something going on in there every night of the month,” Formby said.