Pittsfield to join opioid lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies

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PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield is joining a growing list of cities suing pharmaceutical companies to cover costs spiraling from the opioid epidemic.

"Pittsfield in particular has had some significant impacts with this opioid epidemic," Mayor Linda Tyer told members of the City Council, which on Tuesday unanimously approved a mayoral order to obtain legal counsel as part of the lawsuit.

"It's very similar to what occurred in the smoking and tobacco lawsuits," Tyer said.

Tyer said it costs the city nothing to join, but the attorneys will get 25 percent of any money won in the suit.

Health Director Gina Armstrong told councilors there are "never enough resources" to handle the fallout. Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said the civil action is "a long time coming."

"They've devastated our communities," he said. "I credit the administration for taking this step."

Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo said the "massive marketing budgets" of pharmaceutical companies helped popularize opioids. Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon said she was taught in nursing school that opioids are not addictive — a fact that underscores the penetration of that marketing.

"We in Pittsfield have a huge problem," she said, noting higher per capita overdose rates than other cities. "It's here."

Police Chief Michael Wynn said that between overdoses, property crime and increased calls for service, it's impossible to quantify the epidemic's drain on department resources.

"This is astronomically different than it was even six to seven years ago," he said. "It's been a game changer."

Richard Dohoney, the city's attorney, said the litigation's outcome could take many forms.

"No one has those answers, yet, and we're far away from resolution," he said.

Reach Amanda Drane at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter or at 413-496-6296.

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