Today there will be two people who die in Missouri due to opioids, said lawyer John Eccher at the Phelps County Commission meeting May 24 when proposing a multidistrict litigation against opioid drug manufacturers and opioid drug distributors.

Currently, Eccher represents three counties in Missouri including Pulaski County, working with a national group in Missouri to provide assistance to counties in opioid litigation. The national group has elected to not go after the physicians prescribing the opioids.

Considering the 45,000 residents that make up Phelps County, 3.6 million opioid pills were prescribed in the county which equates to 81.3 pills per every man, woman and child, according to Eccher who quoted data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent 2016 report that looks at the prescribing rate per 100 residents in the county.

Eccher is proposing a unification of Missouri counties as the plaintiffs, and if a settlement is reached the money would go back to the counties, and Eccher would be compensated with a contingency fee.

The county does not incur any legal fees or expense. Participation is on a contingency basis. If successful, proceeds from a settlement would be able to be earmarked for prevention programs and other services to help offset the costs being incurred by government agencies responding to the opioid crisis.

“We are representing counties because our belief is that this is a community problem that requires a community solution,” said Eccher. “Tobacco litigation was fantastic for the states since they got a lot of money, and we got new roads, and new highways which everyone benefits from, but it doesn’t solve the problem.”

“We are averaging two drug overdose deaths a month,” according to District 1 Commissioner, Larry Stratman, and the commission wants to solve the opioid problem. The commissioners stated the council is talking to county prosecutor Brendon Fox, and are taking this proposition into consideration.