INDIANAPOLIS — Facing an epidemic of opioid addiction that took the lives of 345 Marion County residents last year, Mayor Joe Hogsett has hired the law firm of Cohen & Malad, LLP to pursue legal action against opioid manufacturers and distributors. The planned lawsuit will target those who have contributed to the rise in opioid addiction in Marion County. The epidemic places added strain on the capacity of local public safety agencies and emergency medical departments. Indianapolis is the first city in Indiana to pursue such action.
Despite traditional efforts of law enforcement and public health agencies, 2016 saw the highest number of drug overdose deaths in Marion County, with 345 people losing their lives – a figure more than four times the number of traffic-related deaths. In 2013, the Marion County Juvenile Court saw a 31% rise cases in which parental rights were terminated, primarily as a result of parental addiction. In 2014, Indiana ranked 15th in the nation for overdose deaths, and Marion County had the highest numbers of deaths due to drug overdose as well as non-fatal emergency department visits. Marion County has led the state – which has led the country – in pharmacy robberies. And as of October 2nd, IEMS has administered naloxone 1,670 times in 2017, on pace to surpass last year’s record-high number of administrations.
The planned lawsuit comes as part of Mayor Hogsett’s commitment to holistic criminal justice reform in Marion County. Reform efforts focus on assessment and intervention with solutions that address the root causes of crime, save taxpayer dollars, and create a more just system. Of those incarcerated in Indiana, 53% are diagnosed with a substance use disorder, a figure that climbs to 75% for those who return to prison.
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