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Santa Fe County considers suing opioid makers

SANTA FE — Santa Fe County could join other local and state governments in taking legal action against the manufacturers and distributors of drugs that have contributed to the country’s opiate epidemic.

County Commissioner Anna Hansen is introducing a resolution that calls for the county to hire someone to represent it in litigation against “opiate manufacturers, distributors and other relevant parties,” possibly in collaboration with other government entities.

The resolution is on the agenda for next Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.

“Our county and our residents are suffering from the effects of all these opioids that have overpopulated our county and state,” Hansen said in a phone interview. “And it’s unfair to ask residents to pay for what these manufacturers of pharmaceuticals are doing to our community. They should be held responsible.”

More than 40 states, including New Mexico, have already filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies or distributors they allege are responsible for the opioid epidemic.

New Mexico’s Mora County became the first county in the state to take legal action when in August it sued numerous major pharmaceutical manufacturers, accusing them of knowingly overdistributing addictive drugs. A few weeks later, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit against five major manufacturers and three distributors.

The Santa Fe County resolution notes that President Donald Trump last month declared a public health emergency due to opioids and that more than 183,000 Americans died from overdoses of prescription opioids from 1999 to 2015.

It states that state Health Department statistics show that 178 people in Santa Fe County died from drug overdoses from 2012 to 2015 and that nearly three times as many people (68) died from drug overdoses in the county in 2016 than were killed in automobile accidents (23).

Due to the opioid epidemic, Santa Fe County has incurred “substantial costs” related to drug overdoses, including medical treatment, transportation, incarceration and connecting inmates with appropriate services to treat people suffering from addiction, the resolution says.