Parisi seeks to hold pharmaceutical firms responsible for role in opioid crisis

Parisi seeks to hold pharmaceutical...

DANE COUNTY, Wis. - County Executive Joe Parisi announced Wednesday that Dane County will seek legal action against pharmaceutical companies believed to have contributed to the nationwide opioid epidemic, according to a release. 

A resolution for legal action to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for their role in the epidemic will be addressed at Thursday evening’s county board meeting, officials say.

“The opioid epidemic has hit local communities hard across the United States, and Dane County is no exception,” Parisi said in the release. “It’s time to tell pharmaceutical companies that enough is enough. This epidemic has strained our resources and has cost local communities across Wisconsin millions of dollars as we try to get people the treatment and recovery they so desperately need.”

Bonnie Sesolak of Waunakee lost her son Cody to a heroin overdose at age 21 in 2013. Ever since, she has dedicated her life to making sure other families don't have to experience what she's experienced.

"You can't even imagine what it's like to lose a child," Sesolak said. "Some of us make it, some of us don't and it's a struggle every single day."

She even started her own foundation, HeD Peace, in memory of her son to help families who have struggled with addiction.

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program reports Dane County residents have received over 500,000 opioid prescriptions annually since 2013. Dane County Emergency Medical Services reports 643 suspected overdose incidents in 2017 thus far, a 30 percent increase from the 486 incidents in 2016. 

There were 12.4 prescription opioid deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, according to Public Health of Madison and Dane County. The rate has doubled since 2000. 

Gregory Love, a pain management doctor with SSM Health, said the opioid epidemic has made doctors re-evaluate when they should prescribe opioids and how much.

"It wasn't until we saw that the risk of overdose was climbing to an alarming degree that we started to evaluate, 'What do we need to do differently here? What do we need to change?'" Love said. "Starting about five, six years ago, there was significant recognition that we had an opioid overdose crisis in this country, and something had to change."

Dane County has responded to the epidemic by budgeting $7.5 million for alcohol and other drug abuse prevention and treatment in 2017, along with $733,000 in grant revenue from state and federal governments specifically for treatment of opiate and intravenous drug users. 

The Dane County board meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in the City-County Building, Room 201. 

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