Neshoba County is considering joining a nationwide lawsuit against national distributors of opioids, the Board of Supervisors said on Monday after hearing a presentation from a Jackson attorney who is partnering with a Philadelphia firm in the litigation.

Supervisors have discussed the possibility of joining in the lawsuit since August, calling the opioid epidemic a public nuisance.

Sheila Bossier of Bossier and Associates of Jackson told supervisors Monday that Mississippi was the first state to file litigation against drug makers.

She is encouraging Neshoba and other Mississippi counties to join in, noting that there was an opioid drug crisis across the state.

Bossier asked the board to hire her firm, in partnership with the Mars, Mars and Mars law firm in Philadelphia, to represent Neshoba County in the lawsuit at no cost to the county.

Supervisors took her request under advisement.

In Neshoba County alone, Bossier said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that there were 147.1 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 people during 2016.

“Sixty-six prescriptions per 100 is the national average,” she said.

Bossier said distributors of opioid medications could be vulnerable to damage claims to treat those who are addicted as well as to fund related emergency room and law enforcement expenses among others.

“They are marketing to down play the addiction,” Bossier said, noting that opioid addiction often leads to heroin addiction.

“Mississippi is the fifth largest user of opioids in the country,” she said. “That is a staggering statistic if you compare it to the rest of the country.”

Bossier told supervisors that opioid addiction was costing counties through uninsured emergency room visits, ambulance responses and law enforcement, among other areas.

“Many small communities don’t understand the rising costs are, in part, related to opioid abuse,” she said.

Bossier said her firm, in partnership with Mars, Mars and Mars, would like to represent the county in a multi-district litigation.

“Like the tobacco litigation, there is power in numbers,” she said.

Attorney Dan Mars told supervisors that one only had to attend Circuit Court to see the effects of drug addiction in Neshoba County.

“The first thing here was marijuana and then crack cocaine. This is much more serious. I venture to guess that 80 percent of the crime is related to opioid addiction,” he said.

Board of Supervisors Attorney Wade White said it had become apparent to supervisors through the jail population, Department of Human Services matters and hospital populations that the distributors have flooded the area with opioids.

Opioids are prescription-type drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone.

White said distributors of opioids are “dumping too many on the market, over promoting their use to the medical community and failing to monitor the number of opioids being prescribed as required by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

“Specifically federal law requires distributors of narcotics, not pharmacists, but national drug distributors, to monitor the volume of drugs and the destination of drugs.  In that way they can alert the DEA of potential abuse in communities.”

A community of 5,000 people who receive 2,500 opioid prescriptions in a month should raise red flags and alert the DEA of opioid abuse, White said.

“However, the national distributors have failed to do that and have misled the medical community about the long-term effects of these drugs, among other things.  

“The result is addiction, crime, broken families and broken lives,” he said.

White said the supervisors would continue to explore the county’s options.