As the Covid-19 crisis slows down, city officials are again focusing on another epidemic.
Dartmouth could soon join a number of other communities suing the drug companies and distributors who caused the opioid crisis, according to city administrator Shawn MacInnes.
MacInnes said the city wants to participate in a class action lawsuit as officials are currently in talks with a company that represents other communities in Massachusetts and across the country.
“We haven’t signed a contract yet,” he said, adding that the Covid pandemic slowed the process significantly.
A number of other parishes across the country and on the south coast have joined similar lawsuits, including Fairhaven in 2018 and New Bedford in 2019.
Bristol County has been one of the hardest hit areas in a state with opioid death rates about twice the national average.
There were 64 overdoses in Dartmouth in 2018, including four deaths.
Just a year later, that number rose from 73 overdoses within the city limits to six deaths.
According to state data, a total of 10 Dartmouth residents in Massachusetts died from opioid-related overdoses.
And although the number of confirmed overdose deaths in the state in 2019 was down 0.4% year over year, preliminary data from 2020 shows an increase during the pandemic.
“We make a lot of these calls,” noted Det, Dartmouth Police spokesman. Kyle Costa. “Overdoses have been rampant in this city – since the crisis began a few years ago.”
“It’s a burden on the department,” he added.
MacInnes said the city will have no cost to participate in the class action lawsuit.
The requested remedial action would likely include financial compensation.
“Most likely [funds] I would stand up for the support of those affected in the community as well as for education and public relations, ”he said.
“The City of Dartmouth’s goal is to protect the health and safety of the community by trying to limit the unnecessary and harmful prescriptions of opioids,” noted MacInnes.
“This is something that is years in development,” he added. “It’s a community benefit when we get something that we can use to compensate [the effect of the crisis] In a positive way. “