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City of Chicago Heights Joins Opioid Crisis Class Action Settlement Agreement

December 1, 2021 Chicago Heights City Council Meeting

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Jim Perez
Jim Perez
Journalist for the Southland Journal. Covering Country Club Hills and Chicago Heights.

City of Chicago Heights Joins Opioid Crisis Class Action Settlement Agreement (Chicago Heights, IL) — The Chicago Heights City Council on Wednesday night approved a resolution authorizing the city to take part in the National Opioid Settlement Program. The city joined as a plaintiff in the 2018 suit brought against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Both Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez and City Attorney TJ Somer spoke about the devastation the opioid epidemic has ravaged upon the country as a whole, and Cook County and the South Suburbs in specific.

In August 2021, there were 24 opioid-related fatalities in suburban Cook County, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health. Chicago Heights ranked third for the most deaths in suburban Cook County that month.

According to a February report by the CCDPH, ZIP codes in the towns of Worth, Broadview, Maywood and Forest Park, areas that “have substantially lower median household incomes and higher poverty rates,” have been especially hard-hit by the opioid crisis.

During the pandemic, from March through May 2020 when the stay-at-home order was in place, opioid-related deaths in suburban Cook County increased from about 23 per week to just over 35 per week. And unlike in the early years of the opioid epidemic, when deaths were largely among white Americans in rural and suburban areas, the current opioid crisis is affecting Black Americans disproportionately.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, overdose deaths hit a new record of 93,000 in 2020, driven largely by the rise of fatalities linked to the synthetic opioid Fentanyl. That number is 29% higher than it was the year before. Fentanyl — a substance that’s increasingly being found in more and more drugs– was involved in nearly 2/3 of those deaths.

The settlement program is the next step in the July deal reached by a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general, drug-maker Johnson & Johnson, and three companies that distributed opioid painkillers, despite skyrocketing addiction and overdose deaths. Under the $26 billion national settlement, the three drug distributors will spread their $21 billion payments over 18 years. Johnson & Johnson will contribute $5 billion over a nine-year span and agreed to no longer manufacture opioid medications. The company voluntarily halted sales of prescription opioids last year.

Johnson & Johnson and the three drug distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson – denied any wrongdoing in their manufacturing and marketing of opioids, which began in the 1990s.

In other business, the city passed:

  • an ordinance to update certain building, electric and construction codes.
  • a resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Public Health, regulating the distribution of fees from the death certificate surcharge fund.
  • a resolution approving amending an agreement with MSI Inc. for city code violation collection services.
  • a resolution approving a redevelopment agreement to help move along the sale of city-owned real estate at 33 W. 21st St., as part of the city Abandoned Property Acquisition Program.

The city also tabled a resolution for a 90-day option agreement by Mid America Real Estate Corp. to buy the city-owned land at 1399 Western Ave., the site of the former Amoco gas station.

City of Chicago Heights Joins Opioid Crisis Class Action Settlement Agreement

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