BRICK – The opioid crisis has placed a financial burden on Brick and many other communities across the nation, from the money spent on extra police for drug enforcement, drug prevention education programs at the schools, and other costs the crisis has had on individuals.
Two years ago, the administration hired the national law firm of Motley Rice, LLC, who has spent the time researching who manufactures the opioids in this area, and what the damages are here.
The law firm has now completed their due diligence and has filed a lawsuit in US District Court against 36 different defendants, said Mayor John G. Ducey during the Sept. 24 council meeting.
“There have been so many people that we’ve heard about that hurt their back playing basketball, they end up getting prescribed Oxycontin, and then after a couple of months of doing that – and doctors feel that they no longer need the Oxycontins because they should be feeling better – but unfortunately they’re addicted,” Ducey said. “They probably got addicted the first time they took a pill.”
Many individuals continue to buy the painkiller on the street, and when they can’t afford the pills, turn to heroin. Some lose their jobs, and “that is what the lawsuit is all about,” the mayor said.
In Brick, some of the costs associated with the opioid epidemic is an increase in the number of community policing officers.
Taxpayers are paying to run the anti-drug programs in schools, such as DARE, Lead and Seed, and the Not Even Once Program, and an expanded Neighborhood Watch program.
The police department has instituted the Blue Hart Program where addicts – even those without money or insurance – can come to the police station on Thursdays, turn in their drugs, get evaluated and get placed in a rehab facility, without fear of prosecution.
Forfeiture money pays for the Blue Hart Program, but the cost should be borne by the opioid manufacturers, the mayor said. “We could get the forfeiture money back and our police officers could use that for other purposes, or maybe even expand the program,” Ducey said. Forfeiture money comes from the sales of property, such as cars, belonging to convicted dealers.
“So we’re saying no. Opioid manufacturers are the ones that got us into this situation, getting our residents hooked on your stuff and turning them into addicts,” he said.
The township is seeking monetary damages, abatement of the public nuisance caused by the defendants, and an injunction permanently prohibiting the companies from engaging in the acts the lawsuit claims fueled the opioid crisis.
Motley Rice, LLC will not receive any payment from the township but will receive a percentage of any recovery from the drug manufacturers.
In other news, the mayor said he met with Speaker of the Assembly Craig Coughlin to speak with him about two issues.
First, Ducey wanted to discuss a state bill, if passed, would create an agency to oversee community associations, S-2425/A-3851. The township council recently passed a resolution opposing the bill which would affect the adult communities in Brick (See The Brick Times, September 21 2019).
“[Coughlin] said he was surprised there was as much uprising against it as there was,” Ducey said.
After Brick and other communities came out against the bill, Coughlin promised to take a hard look at the bill and keep it in committee for further discussion to see what kind of solution they could reach to address everyone’s concerns, Ducey said.
The second issue the mayor discussed with Coughlin was the school funding formula, where through a state funding formula, Brick would be losing $24 million over a seven year period in state aid.
The township council passed a resolution asking the state for a new funding formula, but Coughlin said he didn’t know if that was going to happen.
“What he does know is, there is $22 or $23 million in emergency aid that is being made available for the entire state of New Jersey, and he wanted to make sure that the school applied for that,” Ducey said.
The school administration has applied for the emergency aid, so hopefully within the next couple of weeks, the district would be hearing from them, he said.
“Hopefully, Brick will get a piece of that,” Ducey said.