Cobb Board of Commissioners accepts $3.5 million opioid settlement

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In a 4-1 vote during their regular meeting Tuesday morning, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved the acceptance of $3.5 million in settlement funds from an opioid lawsuit involving pharmacy chain Rite Aid.

District 1 Commissioner Keli Gambrill cast the sole vote in opposition to accepting the settlement.

The county’s news release on the settlement summarized the lawsuit as follows:

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.

During the public comment period before the BOC began its deliberations, Missy Owen of the Davis Direction Foundation, which runs the addiction recovery center The Zone, urged the BOC to accept the settlement.

“I’m very appreciative for this County’s work to combat the ongoing opioid crisis,” she said. “Although the opioid epidemic has been swallowed up by other crises and pressing issues in this country, it remains immensely important to the county and impacts thousands of lives each year.”

“I’m very thankful that the county attorney Mr. Rowling has become a leader in pursuing this litigation that will end up helping this county greatly,” Owen said. “And I’m extremely, extremely grateful that the Board of Commissioners has shown the foresight to fund proactive programs and allow resources to flow to those who need them the most.”

“Cobb has been impacted pretty much more than any county in the state, ranking first or second in the number of overdose deaths since 2017,” she said. “So the need is still great and the cost of the county is tremendous.”

“Cobb County has led or been near the top in opioid overdose deaths in the state,” County Attorney Bill Rowling said when 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.”

Rowling said that the money would be placed in a dedicated account, and that expenditures from that account would come before the Board of Commissioners for approval.

In voting against accepting the settlement funds, Gambrill said, “And before I make my vote, this has nothing to do with, Missy, what your organization does, but it’s my opinion that this lawsuit is still not addressing the root cause that the nation is facing. Therefore I cannot support it.”

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid called the question, and it passed 4-1.