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Cobb's Board okays opioid settlement agreement

picture of missy owen
July 12, 2022

Cobb’s Board of Commissioners accepts funds from opioid suit settlement
Proceeds to be used to combat the costs of the opioid epidemic in the county

July 12, 2022 - Cobb County’s Board of Commissioners approved the acceptance of $3.5 million in settlement funds from an opioid lawsuit involving pharmacy retailer Rite Aid.  

“Cobb County has led or been near the top in opioid overdose deaths in the state,” County Attorney Bill Rowling said while asking the board to approve the settlement.  “This is not a place where we are proud to be.  Our District Attorney’s office and Cobb County law enforcement have been at the forefront of this fight in our neighborhoods.”

Lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs have resulted in several global settlements.  Cobb County was one of five locations chosen for bellwether trials against pharmacy retailers, including Rite Aid.  The trial against the other pharmacy retailers is expected to take place in 2023.  By entering into this settlement with the bellwether locations, Rite Aid does not admit to any wrongdoing or liability in the case.

Missy Owen, founder of the Davis Direction Foundation and operator of “The Zone” addressed the board before the vote.  “Although the opioid epidemic has been overshadowed by other crises and pressing issues, it remains immensely important to the county and impacts thousands of lives each year,” she said.  “The need is still great and the cost of the epidemic is enormous.”

Owen said the rise of fentanyl has led to more overdoses, many by those who thought they were taking something else.  “This money will help boots-on-the-ground organizations like the Davis Direction Foundation at the Zone with proven records of success to continue to provide services, feed people who are food insecure because of their circumstances, to provide recovery coaching and phone assistance, and provide referrals to treatment facilities, all in the effort to save the lives of those suffering with the disease of addiction.”

The lawsuits seek compensatory damages to reimburse the county for past costs of treating individuals with opioid-related afflictions, including the costs of handling emergency responses to overdoses, providing addiction treatment, treating opioid-addicted newborns in neonatal intensive care units, and burying the dead.  County Manager Dr. Jackie McMorris has formed a task force to determine the best use and distribution of these settlement funds.

The board approved the settlement by a 4-1 vote.