The opioid epidemic

BRATTLEBORO — The town’s selectboard on Tuesday will discuss whether to reconsider its decision to opt out of a national negotiating class seeking a settlement in the ongoing opioid litigation.

More than 1,000 city and county governments have filed lawsuits accusing makers and distributors of painkillers like OxyContin, retail pharmacies and other entities of fueling the country’s opioid epidemic.

Formed to pursue a comprehensive settlement to the lawsuits, the negotiating class will include every town, city and county in the country except those that have opted out.

Staying in the class does not prevent a municipality from filing or proceeding with its own lawsuit against drug companies. But it means the city or town would be bound by whatever settlements the negotiating class ultimately approves, unless that city had already resolved its claims against particular defendants by settling with them separately or taking a case to trial.

Almost 400,000 people in the U.S. died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes prescription medications and illicit drugs.

Twenty-four people died of drug overdoses in Windham County last year, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

The lawsuits seek to recoup what local governments have spent on emergency medical services, law enforcement and other costs related to the crisis.

Brattleboro Selectboard Vice Chairman Tim Wessel said the town’s attorney, as well as an outside attorney the town is working with on the opioid lawsuit, have recommended the board reconsider its decision to opt out of the negotiating class.

Wessel declined to go into detail about the attorneys’ recommendation, citing attorney-client privilege. But he said the board will discuss the issue in open session at its meeting Tuesday.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. at the Municipal Center on Main Street.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or Follow him on Twitter @PCunoBoothKS.