“…junk (opioids) is the inoculation of death that keeps the body in a condition of emergency.” Burroughs, William S., JUNKIE: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict.
Kentucky is one of the states most severely impacted by opioid drug abuse. As early as 1998, prescription drug abuse in Kentucky was sufficiently severe as to spur policy-makers into creating the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting Act (KASPER). With this system, policy-makers sought to monitor the medical use of controlled substances to dissuade prescription drug abuse. KASPER is a vital tool in providing data on prescription drugs. However, it has not been enough to prevent the death of many Kentuckians.
Since 1998, legislation requiring employers to select insurance policies that funds substance abuse treatment, expanding KASPER to make the data available to public safety persons, restrictions on prescription drug prescribing, and state funding for substance abuse treatment have all been signed into law in an effort to address Kentucky’s severe substance abuse problem. By 2000, despite these efforts to discourage prescription drug abuse, four Kentucky counties reached an overdose rate of more than 20 per 100,000 people. That number tripled in 2014 as 64 of Kentucky’s counties matched that overdose rate. https://www.healthy-ky.org/res/images/resources/Full-Substance-Use-Brief-Final_12_16-002-.pdf. Substance abuse data is collected based upon county of residence, thus city specific data is not available.
Substance Abuse substantially impacts our cities in Kentucky. In recent decades, cities have dedicated significant portions of every budget to counter the impact of the opioid epidemic. Initially the costs were simply the man hours spent by emergency responders combatting drug-related crime and rescuing neglected children. As the epidemic progressed, cities dedicated more resources to social services and public safety, floundering in the effort to save ravaged communities. Costs to the cities include lost productivity for workers, increased insurance costs, workers’ compensation claims, and unemployment insurance costs for effected employees, contamination remediation for drug affected properties, safety equipment for city workers to avoid needle sticks, etc.
Municipalities throughout the United States have suffered significant monetary losses, similar to those in Kentucky, linked to the opioid addiction epidemic. Recognizing that the pharmaceutical industry bears a significant amount of the blame, hundreds of local governments, insurers and other plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit in seeking monetary damages in federal court. In Kentucky, over 50 counties have filed suit for damages.
Multi-party lawsuits seeking damages caused by the opioid epidemic are best litigated by lawyers who specialize in class action cases. Last year, a litigation group approached KLC seeking to represent municipalities interested in joining the lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland. After several meetings with the group, KLC retained the group to recover damages from losses sustained in our workers’ compensation insurance department for opioid prescriptions. There are no up-front costs to KLC; instead, the litigation group recovers its fees if it is successful in winning the case. This type of fee arrangement is called a contingency fee.
KLC is offering to facilitate a meeting for any group of cities interested in discussing whether to pursue this type of litigation as a class.
For more information regarding drug abuse policies please see the following:
Please contact Morgain M. Sprague, Director of Municipal Law and Training with any questions at (859) 977-4212.
 Eiselt, Erich, “Too Much of a Bad Thing: Municipalities and the Opioid Curse.” Municipal Lawyer: The Journal of Local Government Law March-April 2018: pp. 6-15. Print.