A common topic in conversations of public health safety lately has been the opioid epidemic. Statistics from a number of sources such as the National Center for Health Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others, show the number of prescription opioid cases of addictions, overdoses, and deaths has spiked dramatically in the last few years.

In October, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a “Health Emergency.” Among other announcements and movements regarding the epidemic, counties across the country, and across Michigan, are entering lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies responsible for the bad marketing that allowed prescription opioid drugs to wreak havoc on families and individuals.

Eaton County has not been spared losses to opioid addiction and deaths.

At the Wednesday, Dec. 20 Eaton County Board of Commissioner meeting, commissioner Kent Austin made a motion to start pursuing a law firm who would represent Eaton County in such a lawsuit.

“I would recommend that we pursue this,” said Austin, who is also active with Families Against Narcotics.

Commissioner Austin also brought forward the topic of a county opioid lawsuit before the Public Safety committee at a Dec. 7 meeting. At the same meeting Madelyne Lawry, who helped start Eaton County’s Families Against Narcotics meetings, presented statistics on the opioid crisis, as well as some of her own personal testimony from losing a son to opioid overdose. The proposal was also brought before the Ways and Means committee.

Amid the comments from other commissioners, commissioner Howard Spence recommended pursuing a law firm that currently represents another county in Michigan, some of which include Macomb County, Wayne County, Chippewa County, and several others.

The support to pursue a lawsuit and search for legal counsel was unanimous with the board of commissioners. Last year county police departments were equipped with Narcan, a substance often used in emergency overdose situations to stop the effects of opioids. Narcan is only a reactive measure, according to Austin.

“I care about stopping the flow of these drugs into the county,” said Austin. “We have someone overdosing almost every week in the county. It’s bad… You don’t get a feeling for how bad it is until you hear how it effects people close to home.”