December 11, 2018

BOC discusses Opioid Multi-District Litigation

(Franklin/Times-Journal) — The Heard County Board of Commissioners met on March 27, 2018 in the administration building in Franklin. All Commissioners were in attendance except Commissioner Joe Adams.

Chairman Boone called the meeting to order, gave the invocation and led everyone in the pledge to the flag.

Boone introduced invited guests Henry Jacobs, Middle Chattahoochee Outreach Manger and Hannah Bradford, Outreach Watershed Protection Specialist. Mr. Jacobs spoke to the board on the work Chattahoochee Riverkeepers (CRK’s) is doing in the community.

Jacobs spoke on The West Point Lake Floating Classroom which is an environmental education program that offers hands-on learning opportunities for elementary, middle and high school students in the Middle Chattahoochee region; field experiences for college students; and guided trips for community groups, nature centers, summer camps and more.

Onboard the Miss Sally – a custom-built 42-foot vessel – experienced instructors engage participants in a variety of activities that highlight science, history, math and the challenges facing the Chattahoochee River, a source of drinking water and recreation for millions of people.

“We have a great partnership with the Heard County Schools and are proud to be working in this community with that program” said Jacobs.

He invited the board and the community to come out April 7, 2018; 9:00am to the Brush Creek Park for ‘Sweep the Hooch’ an annual day of service to the Chattahoochee River watershed mobilizing volunteers on foot, in waders, or kayak/canoe paddlers to remove trash at locations throughout the watershed which will include Snake Creek Park.

‘Sweep the Hooch’ brings people together to give back to the mighty river that gives us so much.

Hannah Bradford gave the board an update on CRK’s rapidly expanding and highly successful water monitoring program, Neighborhood Water Watch (NWW), which is a collaborative program between CRK and neighborhood groups, schools and citizens in our watershed. The goal is to improve water quality in urban streams and protection of human health in the surrounding communities.

Braford stated, “Heard County monitoring test sites are at the bridge in Franklin and a site on Centralhatchee Creek where we monitor every week. There are over 600 test sites. We work to make sure our water is clean. The Chattahoochee is much cleaner than it used to be. We like to spread that news and show the cities the work that we are doing does show a difference in the quality of the water.”

Chairman Boone introduced invited guest Attorney, Jeff Friedman of Friedman, Dazzio, Zulanas & Bowling, PC from Birmingham, Alabama.

Friedman spoke to the board and gave a power point presentation on opioid multi-district litigation (MDL). Friedman’s presentation was about the opioid crisis in the United Stated. Below are a few of the facts listed on his presentation:

– In 2016; 42,000 deaths in America that were directly related to prescription opioid abuse. The Center for Disease Control states the more accurate count is 64,000 because they consider heroin addiction which is linked directly to prescription opioid abuse.

– There are more people killed in the United States by opioid prescription abuse than motor vehicle accidents and gun accidents combined and the number is growing.

– In this country, we represent 4% of the world’s population but we consume 50% of the worlds pain killers.

– An opioid addicted baby is born in the United States every 30 minutes.

– America has elderly addiction problems, with the people in retirement homes, that can’t speak for themselves and are given pain medication. Number one, to sedate them and number two, it addicts them. They are not given the help needed for their  addiction.

– 7.8 billion hydrocodone pills were distributed nationwide in 2014 and 4.9 million billion oxycodone tablets were distributed.

– May 10, 2007 – The federal government brought criminal charges against Purdue Pharma for misleadingly advertising OxyContin as safer and less addictive than other opioids. The company and three executives are charged with “misleading and defrauding physicians and consumers. “Purdue Pharma and the executives plead guilty, agreeing to pay a $634.5 million in criminal and civil fines. The three executives plead guilty on criminal misdemeanor charges and were later sentenced to probation.

Jeff Friedman stated, “What brings me here tonight? We want you to make an informed decision. Many counties in Georgia have decided to join the MDL. It is not a class action lawsuit. It’s a matter of you as a county in your collective wisdom and consciousness want to opt in to this MDL. The lawsuit is based on public nuisance claim. That the Drug Manufacture has created a nationwide nuisance.”

Friedman said only the counties, cities and states that opt in will receive funds from the lawsuit which will be held in the U.S. District Judge Dan Polster’s courtroom in Cleveland Ohio.

Friedman was asked about the time line for the county to opt in, and Friedman stated, “Time is of the essence and we don’t have a date from the judge yet.”

The commissioners agreed to research the matter and discuss it with the counties attorney before deciding and would place it on the agenda for the next meeting.

A public hearing was held for the rezoning of 2.15 acres at 310 GA Hwy 100 SW Hogansville from residential to commercial to build a Dollar General. Also for the rezoning of 1.3 acers on Dowdy Road from agricultural to residential to build a home.

The board of commissioners approved both for rezoning and placed the public hearing for amendments to Heard County rezoning ordinance on the agenda of the May 27 meeting because of the delay with the zoning committee.

Under new business the board approved ADF policy for the Heard County transit as written.

The commissioners approved the appointment of Wil Arnett to the board of the Greater West Georgia Regional Joint Development Authority. The board also approved the appointment of Don Heard to Heard County Facilities Authority and the reappointment of Rodney Kay to the Development Authority of Heard County.

Under old business the commissioners adopted the ordinance regarding loitering in the county parks.

There were no public comments and the commissioners went in to executive session to discuss litigation. The meeting was adjourned.

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