In a unanimous vote Tuesday the Saint Louis County Board voted to hold drug manufacturers and distributors accountable for their role in the opioid crisis with the goal of recovering some of the costs that have come with fighting this deadly epidemic.
Commissioner Tom Rukavina noted, when it comes to the opioid crisis, it's not hard for St. Louis County leaders to find common ground.
"Nobody's going to be against this resolution because it's like being against mom and apple pie," he said.
So when County Attorney Mark Rubin sought their approval to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors, he found the support he needed to fight against groups he said have cost the county hundreds of millions of dollars.
"We need to get to the source of the problem," he said.
The lawsuit is directed at three primary manufacturers and distributors Rubin claims are responsible for more than 90 percent of the prescription opioids in the country.
The three are not being named right now, but he points at misconduct in marketing and distribution fueling the opioid crisis.
When the board approved his lawsuit, they also approved his request for help. Rubin said he'll work with a few national law firms that will assist.. without fees.. on a 25 percent contingency rate if the county wins a settlement.
Verne Wagner came to support the lawsuit as a private citizen explaining, and said after the County's exhaustive and expensive efforts to take care of the addicted population, track down dealers, and provide services for the lives destroyed, it's time those sources pay.
"Tax payers shouldn't be putting up all the money from this" he said. "This is coming as we well know from the pharmaceutical industries."
Still he said fighting the crisis shouldn't stop here. He said the county needs to work with those prescribing these medications.
"We need to have a dialogue opened up with these medical providers, and say, 'Look, you share a responsibility here.'"
Rubin said the board will informed as the lawsuit moves forward as they represent his client, the county, and he plans to use any funds won to provide additional county resources.
With this decision, St. Louis County joins hundreds of cities and counties across the country filing similar lawsuits, including Douglas County, Wisc., which joined a similar lawsuit targeting pharmaceutical companies, last month.