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City of Gadsden prepares to file lawsuit against opioid distributors

Gadsden prepares to file lawsuit against opioid distributors (AP photo).

The city of Gadsen is trying a new way to fight its opioid epidemic.

Not only is the city fighting the problem criminally, it is also filing a civil lawsuit against the opioid wholesale distributors.

The Etowah County coroner tells ABC 33/40 at least 16 deaths this year have already been determined to be opioid related. More cases are being reviewed right now.

Gadsdenkeaders are now doing anything they can to combat the issue.

“Today, before lunch, we've already pushed Narcan on three different patients,” Gadsden EMS Chief Wil Reed told ABC 33/40.

Reed and his team use Narcan to treat a growing number of opioid overdoses.

“It can vary anywhere from one to two times a day to six or seven patients a day in Gadsden,” said Reed.

Sgt. Teri Farris also sees the problem first hand. She represents Gadsden Police Department on the Etowah County Drug Taskforce.

“It's an epidemic at this point and it's a drain on our local resources, not only personnel costs, equipment costs,” said Farris.

Farris says the city averages $700 dollars a week, just for the Narcan.

“The longer it goes, it gets a lot more expensive,” said Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton.

Guyton says that's one reason the city is now going after drug distributors in a civil lawsuit.

“Just sort of go at it from any angle we can to make it better,” said Guyton.

Emily Hawk Mills is filing the lawsuit on behalf of the city.

“We believe that flood of pills into our community came from a failure on the part of certain companies to abide by the law and uphold their responsibilities,” said Mills.

Mills is trying to hold those companies financially responsible.

“Our lawsuit is based on a nuisance action for them to come help clean up the problem that they've helped create,” said Mills.

While Mills fights in court, Farris says first responders and the drug task force will keep fighting on the streets.

“We have new tactics we're doing and trying out because this is an epidemic at this point,” said Farris. “And I think drug dealers can look forward to possibly federal prosecution at this point, that seems to be quite successful.”

The lawsuit has not been filed yet. Mills expects more community stakeholders to sign on as plaintiffs.

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