Dauphin County commissioners consider suing pharmaceutical companies to combat opioid crisis

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Dauphin County commissioners have announced they might want to sue over the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.

Commissioners hired a law firm to look into suing drug companies in order to protect taxpayer dollars.

The county is considering a contingency lawsuit, so that any future settlement will pay for the cost of legal action.

A cross-section of Dauphin County leaders believe drug companies literally need to pay for the opioid epidemic.

Dauphin County commissioners chairman Jeff Haste said "this is done truly for the taxpayer, because they've already spent enough in this. The people not at the table are the opioid companies that started this, and we want to make sure that counties are at the table when the settlement occurs."

Dauphin County commissioners want pharmaceutical companies to pay up for what the opioid crisis costs the county.

Dauphin county commissioner George Hartwick III said "we've heard from parents who've lost children as a result of this epidemic. I don't know how you put a price to that, but when we talk about actual taxpayer dollars, and what's being done in treatment, we've seen those numbers increase dramatically."

"From June of 2016, to July of '17, Dauphin County spent $19.2 million for addiction, that's 2,859 individuals, in our own community," Haste said.

County officials hope a lawsuit will recoup those expenses, but the opioid epidemic costs more than money.

For parents like Wendy Loranzo, it costs her, her daughter's life.

"It's a little bittersweet for me, because my daughter is gone, and I can't help her anymore, but I can help other people. I can help other parents , and I just want to keep spreading the word, and keep people from having to go to the cemetery to visit their child ," Loranzo said.

The Pennsylvania attorney general already Ann that the state would take pharmaceutical comptroller court for their role in the opioid crisis.

Dauphin County commissioners believe it's important to take matters into their own hands, by considering their own lawsuit.

"To ensure that we're at the table to make sure that those resources are directly returned to our county systems and most importantly, that taxpayers in our county aren't the only ones that are footing the bill," Hartwick said.

"We're the ones that have to find the providers, we're the ones that are going out and talking to the families, we're the ones on the ground fighting this epidemic," Haste said.

Commissioners also said the way the Pennsylvania is handling the tobacco settlement fund as a way to potentially balance the state budget is another reason they want to sue.

Their concern is that if the Attorney General reaches a settlement with pharmaceutical companies, that there could be a chance they won't see much, if any money.