2017 will be a record year for drug overdose deaths in Rockford and Winnebago county. Community leaders say they’ve had enough. Winnebago County and City of Rockford are filing a lawsuit against the companies they blame for the opioid crisis.
Local officials say some drug companies are to blame, because they created the opioid drug crisis. Which has led to someone dying from a drug overdose in Winnebago County every three days. It’s not just their families who pay the price, it’s the public too. Now a lawsuit will be filed in federal court.
“We are just simply not going to allow these profiteers to prey on this community, then force our taxpayers to clean up the mess,” said Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato. “It ends now.”
The partnership with the Winnebago County, City of Rockford take a new approach to solving the epidemic seen here in the Stateline.
“Families are being devastated,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. “It is imperative that drug manufacturers change their current practices. We can no longer afford to pay lip service to this growing problem in our community. The talk is obviously not working. We need to take action and we need to take action immediately.”
Chairman Frank Haney says the overdose deaths in Winnebago County have quadrupled in the past 10 years. In 2006 there were 33, in 2016, there were 96. The County Coroner said half way through December in 2017, the number of deaths rose to 122. The lawsuit is not only hoping to change business practices, but county, city leaders and the attorneys on this case, also say they’re looking to make those companies and distributors pay for the damage they’ve already created.
“There are hundreds of trips, hundreds and hundreds of trips to the emergency room, hospital stays as well as the pain and suffering of individuals, families, and communities,” said Haney.
“Each of these defendants will be included in these claims for damages both retroactively,” said Attorney Peter Mougey. “Whether it be the jails, the coroners, the first responders whether it be Narcan that’s used.”
Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten says his department saw 310 overdoses this year, who were saved by carrying Narcan. The Winnebago County Sheriff’s office also uses the antidote to save lives.
“As a community, what I see on the streets and the number of Narcan saves that we have on the streets, that has to tell you something,” said Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.
The City of Rockford and Winnebago County hired an outside team of attorneys with experience in civil lawsuits to represent them. The next step in the lawsuit will be filing it in Northern Illinois District court.