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Responding To New Statute, Fort Wayne Will Opt Out Of Statewide Opioid Litigation

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FILE PHOTO: Rebecca Green
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During Tuesday’s meeting, Fort Wayne City Council discussed opting out of a statewide opioid lawsuit the city joined nearly four years ago, and going its own way.

Brought forward by city attorney Carol Helton, the proposal was unanimously approved by council during the preliminary debate 8-0 en route to possible final passage next week.

In December 2017 Mayor Tom Henry, with support from the Allen County Department of Health and Board of Commissioners, announced Fort Wayne would join the statewide legal effort targeting the three largest opioid manufacturers in the country: Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation, which at that time had accounted for “80 percent of the market for prescription opioids.”

But in those four years, state law has changed: local governments are now required to opt out of any state settlement funds so local cases can proceed. As a result, this alters the payout structure to three prongs: 15 percent to local governments, 15 percent to the state, and 70 percent to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, which would then distribute funds.

According to WFYI in Indianapolis last week, city councils in West Lafayette and Lafayette agreed to similar resolutions as the one in Fort Wayne. In that reporting, attorney Richard Shevitz called the new statute “highly unusual.”

Helton told Council that, within the new statute, the decision to opt out is a practical one and could better serve the city long term.

“We feel we should continue on, we should opt out of the statute, and we should continue on with our litigation so any proceeds that we may receive would stay here locally in Fort Wayne and help us with the opioid crisis in Fort Wayne,” said Helton.

Local governments have until June 30 to send a letter to Attorney General Todd Rokita indicating the decision to opt out.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered. He currently hosts Morning Edition.