PITTSBURG — Local Attorney Patrick Smith is filing a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies on behalf of Crawford County involving Opioids.

“For many years, the prospect of a major drug problem infiltrating the borders of

Kansas, let alone Crawford County, was inconceivable,” the lawsuit states. “Crawford County hosts predominantly farming communities along with a small town, Pittsburg, Kansas, which holds over half of the entire population of the county — still, within this modest setting rages an unexpected war between health and opioid-addiction.”

Smith said manufacturers have used their programs to convince health care providers that opioids should be used for long-term pain, which is described as for more than 90 days.

“These folks end up getting hooked, who were otherwise hard working decent people who had no problems with alcohol or drugs and they go for a surgery and on these pills for a while and it’s hard to get off,” he said.

According to the attorney, the prescribing rates are 60 percent higher than Kansas’ statewide average and is twice the national average. He said the cons of having such a rate affects more than just the individual.

Smith said first responders, health centers, addiction treatment programs and other community services along with children born to a mother affected by these drugs are all hurt by the crisis. The opioid litigation will help aim the costs of the opioid crisis at the pharmaceutical companies rather than the taxpayers.

Crawford County Counselor Jim Emerson discussed the process that led to the county commissioners supporting Smith.

“I was approached by Smith about filing a lawsuit on behalf of the county and eventually getting it consolidated with the lawsuits that are already happening,” Emerson said. “There’s been numerous articles about opioid and opioid addiction, and the idea is that this is an attempt to recoup the cost we have spent on this problem from a number of different areas.”

According to the lawsuit, the costs to Crawford County include significant increases in expenditures on emergency services for responding to the overdose calls, as well as law enforcement call-outs to investigate crimes that are the natural product of increased drug abuse.

“The Crawford County Mental Health Center, erected by the Crawford County commissioners in the 1960s, cannot sustain the county’s need for addiction treatment stemming from the boom of the opioid epidemic; another addiction treatment clinic must be built in Pittsburg, Kansas, to serve the addicted members of the Crawford community,” the lawsuit states. “The cost of such a center is so substantial that the county has already been forced to front a $1 million bond to fund the building, while the mental health center has earmarked proceeds from the sale of a book authored by its executive director to match that bond.”

Emerson said he hopes to see Crawford County do its part toward fixing this nationwide problem.

“I think there’s some research that has shown that Kansas has been hit in the same way that other states have been hit, and we wanted to get involved,” the counselor said. “Taxpayers are not on the hook for anything if there’s no recoup and it doesn’t work out.”

 — Brandon Schmitz is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be reached at bschmitz@morningsun.net.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.