More than a dozen communities in western Massachusetts have joined forces in the fight against opioid deaths and addiction.
Their course of action is a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. They said that they want to hold drug companies accountable for the addiction issues in their communities.
Fourteen western Massachusetts communities have joined that lawsuit already and five local mayors announced Wednesday that they are a part of that group who is suing the drug corporations.
Just hours after learning that a 20 year old woman overdosed and died this morning in West Springfield, West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt announced that along with the mayors from Agawam, Greenfield, Easthampton, and North Adams, they will be joining a lawsuit against the three largest drug producers in the country.
They want to hold the companies that fuel the opioid crisis in their communities accountable.
"For us to all unify and unite, get the smaller communities with us, I think it will be a huge help for actually holding the companies accountable," Reichelt explained.
They spoke about overdose numbers in their communities and across the state.
"Between January and March of this year, 500 people across Massachusetts died from opioid overdoses, which is more than all overdoses in 2000. That's the same number as kids at Easthampton High that we have lost from overdoses," said Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle.
These overdoses impact all aspects of the community, the families of the addict, and the first responders who try to save them.
"It's terrible. I hope it stops, but it seems like it hasn't," said West Springfield Police Chief Robert Duffy.
Reichelt told Western Mass News that they hope to bring the big companies to trial to try and get some money to help their communities deal with this crisis and they desperately hope the numbers of opioid related deaths- decreases.
"Sometimes, you hear those numbers dip down. They are down five percent, five less people, that's great, but there is still 1,000 people dying. Until that number is zero, we won't stop," Reichelt noted.
More than 100 communities across the state have announced they joined in the lawsuit and that's in addition to the hundreds more across the country.
John Parker, senior vice president of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance - a national trade group representing drug distributors - released a statement saying: “The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders. Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated. Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”
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