Toledo mayoral candidate Wade Kapszukiewicz said Monday the city of Toledo should join a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and suppliers.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz, an unendorsed Democrat, announced his stand at a news conference outside the Lucas County Courthouse where he was joined by a couple who lost their son to heroin addiction that began with the use of prescription drugs.
On Tuesday, he and two other candidates – endorsed Democrat Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and Republican Councilman Tom Waniewski – are scheduled to participate in a forum at Old Orchard Elementary School that begins at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, Toledo City Council candidates will appear at a forum sponsored by the Young Black Democrats from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at YWCA of Northwest Ohio, 1018 Jefferson Ave.
Laurie and John Clemons of Northwood said their son Brandon Morris, 30, died of a heroin overdose in 2015. They said he was prescribed painkillers for a knee injury while playing football in high school. Two men were convicted in Wood County in connection with their son’s fatal drug overdose.
“I am calling on the City of Toledo to join Ohio cities such as Cincinnati, Dayton, Lorain, and Findlay in a lawsuit against drug companies. Any and all proceeds from this suit should be invested in the treatment programs for people who are suffering through this epidemic,” Mr. Kaszukiewicz said.
“These Ohio cities are no different from Toledo. States like West Virginia and Kentucky have successfully done this and been able to improve their response and turn their communities around,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
In May, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sued five major opioid manufacturers and their subsidiaries, saying marketing downplayed addiction risks while playing up drug benefits, making Ohio the second state to do so. Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Mr. DeWine, said Ohio is reviewing the possibility of litigation against distributors.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he was prescribed the prescription opioid Percocet for a shoulder injury in 2008, and said he could understand why it would ensnare users. He said he it made him feel “giddy” and “happy.”
“I can easily see how some people can get addicted, just from that experience on my right shoulder and the medicine that they prescribed, it’s not a stretch at all to me to see how people can become addicted to those painkillers,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “People are led to believe that those drugs are safe, but they’re not.”
Mr. Kapszukiewicz also called for creation of a regional opioid response team including Lucas, Wood, and Ottawa counties. Mr. and Mrs. Clemons said a problem they learned about was a lack of sharing information between counties.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz, Ms. Hicks-Hudson, and Mr. Waniewski are competing in the Sept. 12 nonpartisan city primary. The two highest vote-getters in that election will face off in the city’s general election for mayor on Nov. 7.
Mr. Waniewski said in a prepared statement that “education and legislation are much more effective ways to deal with this issue versus litigation.
“I’d much rather see the cost of litigation (which was not mentioned in Kapszukiewicz’s announcement) funneled into our local law enforcement programs and work with local, state, and federal legislators to develop effective laws to combat this epidemic. I would also add that since the state of Ohio is already pursuing this very long and arduous route, we should focus on what we can do today through education and legislation,” Mr. Waniewski said.
A spokesman for Mayor Hicks-Hudson said she has asked the law department to research the city’s legal options.
“It sounds easy for the city to join a lawsuit, but it takes careful and thoughtful discussion on the issues. Mayor Hicks-Hudson has been working with the local, state, and federal governments and agencies to address the serious issue of opioid epidemic affecting those in our community,” spokesman Carrie Hartman said.
She said Ms. Hicks-Hudson has been working with Ohio Mayors Alliance for more than a year to promote legislative action and with Cities Thrive Coalition, a national organization made up of 185 American cities to tackle addiction and substance abuse problems through comprehensive mental health programs and awareness.