Tacoma’s City Attorney’s Office is exploring ways to hold the makers of opioid painkillers accountable for the city’s growing homelessness crisis.
The city is gathering information from law enforcement and other city officials to determine whether to move forward with a lawsuit against drug manufacturers.
Last January, the city of Everett filed a lawsuit against Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, alleging the company knowingly allowed pills to be funneled to the black market.
Tacoma’s Chief Deputy City Attorney Chris Bacha confirmed the city is working with outside counsel and a decision on whether to sue opioid manufacturers could come in the next couple of weeks.
Ultimately, that decision is up to Tacoma’s City Council and the mayor, Marilyn Strickland, who brought up the idea in a regular council meeting last week.
Bacha said if the city were to win any money from a lawsuit, it could use the money to pay for substance abuse programs, more police officers, and sanitation at homeless encampments.
“That would be the idea," said Bacha. "If the city was successful in pursuing and obtaining a damage award, we'd want to use those funds to enforce the state laws and to provide services to those people who are suffering from addiction to these drugs.”
City officials also hope legal action can change the way the drugs are marketed and prescribed.
Bacha acknowledged a lawsuit will be expensive and could take a while to make its way through the courts. But he says it would hopefully encourage other cities to bring similar cases and it could send a strong statement to opioid manufacturers.