Com­mis­sion­ers hire firm to start opi­oid law­suit

The Republican Herald - - LOCAL - BY Peter e. Bortner STAFF WRITER con­tact the writer: pbort­ner@re­pub­li­can­her­ald. com; 570-628-6014

POTTSVILLE — In an ef­fort to com­bat the opi­oid epi­demic, the Schuylkill County com­mis­sion­ers de­cided Thurs­day to go af­ter the man­u­fac­tur­ers of the drugs to try to re­cover some of the costs of the fight.

The com­mis­sion­ers voted to hire the Philadel­phia law firm of Saltz, Mon­geluzzi, Bar­rett & Ben­desky PC to sue drug man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies that made, pro­moted, dis­trib­uted or sold opi­oids in the coun­try, state and county.

“We think it’s bet­ter to go on our own,” in­stead of wait­ing for pos­si­ble ac­tion by the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gary Ben­der said of the de­ci­sion.

As­sis­tant county solic­i­tor Glenn Roth said that while the firm is head­quar­tered in Philadel­phia, the county will be deal­ing pri­mar­ily with Car­men P. Bele­fonte, the man­ag­ing part­ner of its of­fice in Me­dia, Delaware County.

“We’ve been track­ing lit­i­ga­tion through­out the state, mon­i­tor­ing what the coun­ties are do­ing,” Roth said. He said the firm al­ready has filed a sim­i­lar law­suit in Delaware County.

Roth said the law­suit is an ef­fort to re­spond to the costs of the opi­oid epi­demic that the county has been shoul­der­ing. Those in­clude the es­tab­lish­ment of the Drug Treat­ment Court, along with in­creased costs of pro­ba­tion and pa­role of­fi­cers, the drug and al­co­hol pro­gram and the prison, many of whose in­mates have drug-re­lated crimes on their record.

“Many of these costs can be di­rectly re­lated to the opi­oid cri­sis in the county,” he said. “We felt that based on the num­bers we were see­ing ... it’s im­por­tant to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of Schuylkill County.”

Ben­der said the county en­tered into a con­tin­gent fee en­gage­ment agree­ment with Saltz, Mon­geluzzi, Bar­rett & Ben­desky, and did not have to pay any money up front.

“They only get their money if some­thing gets set­tled,” he said.

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