The City of Costa Mesa, which has the highest concentration of sober living homes in Orange County, announced Thursday it has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of pain medication, “who are the root cause behind the national opiate crisis.”
Filed on March 29, the suit seeks the reimbursement of tax dollars spent on dealing with “a crisis that should never have occurred,” with the unspecified amount the city recovers being pledged “to help manage the impacts of this crisis in Costa Mesa,” according to the city.
“This epidemic has personally touched the lives of many members of our community,” Mayor Katrina Foley said. “It’s time that we take action and put a halt to the lives being destroyed and the economic drain opioid addiction is placing on our community.”
Foley, who is running for the California state Senate, brought up the Nov. 5 death of Costa Mesa Fire Capt. Mike Kreza, who was struck by a van and killed while riding his bike in Mission Viejo two days before. Driver Stephen Taylor Scarpa, a Mission Viejo 25-year-old who was allegedly under the influence of opioids or narcotics at the time of the incidents, has been charged with murder.
There was also last month’s recuse of a baby in medical distress by Costa Mesa fire and police crews. It was later determined the baby had the drug fentanyl in her system.
Putting a price tag on this will be interesting. Sober living homes alone generate multiple service calls to police and firemen, and the city has spent millions of dollars in legal fees dealing with the operations that cater to recovering opioid addicts.
Costa Mesa officials cite a 2017 Orange County Health Care Agency report, which found that between 2011 and 2015, the city had some of the highest increases in the numbers of opioid related emergency room visits and opioid deaths in the county. Emergency visits in Costa Mesa jumped 58 percent from 74 in 2011 to 174 in 2015 and deaths rose 20 percent from nine in 2011 to 15 in 2015, the report states.
Of course, pining all this on pharmaceutical companies will be a challenge, given their immense wealth and teams of lawyers. But it has not stopped other government entities from trying, including the Orange County District Attorney’s office, which joined their Santa Clara County counterparts in suing drug companies that make opioid painkillers over the counties’ costs for substance abuse treatment, unemployment, emergency room visits and other social services.
A judge dismissed the suit in 2015.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.