BERRYVILLE — Clarke County is seeking compensation from pharmaceutical manufacturers for its involvement in battling a nationwide opioid epidemic.
Earlier this week, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution approving the county’s participation in a proposed settlement of opioid-related claims against McKesson, Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen, Janssen and their related corporate entities. The board also adopted a resolution approving the county’s participation in the Virginia Opioid Abatement Fund and Settlement Allocation Memorandum of Understanding.
The companies altogether may have to pay as much as $26 billion as part of settlement proposals toward a nationwide class-action lawsuit against them.
Not only has the epidemic claimed the lives of thousands of people, but it also has placed a heavy burden on emergency medical, law enforcement, criminal justice, mental health and substance abuse services that have dealt with it, the resolutions read.
The state, its counties and cities will continue having to “allocate substantial taxpayer dollars, resources, staff energy and time to address the damage” to society caused by the epidemic, the documents assert.
For addicts, “opioid addiction is not pretty,” said Berryville District Supervisor Matthew Bass.
Bass, a lawyer, mentioned he has known people who became addicted to the drugs.
Frederick County’s supervisors recently approved participating in the settlement. Officials estimated that county could receive up to $2.6 million.
Clarke County Administrator Chris Boies didn’t estimate how much in settlement funds the county could receive.
But “the more localities that participate, the higher the (actual) settlement amount” will be, Boies said.
Settlement allocations can be put toward expenses such as emergency medical responses and drug abuse education and treatment programs, he said.
Following motions by Bass, the resolutions were adopted in 4-1 votes.
Russell District Supervisor Doug Lawrence abstained from voting.
“I was hoping this settlement would help taxpayers” in some way, Lawrence said.
To his understanding, he said, rules for participating in the settlement would require the money to be used toward expanding services, not covering costs for existing ones.
For instance, “even if we had the best treatment program in the world, we couldn’t supplant its funding,” said Lawrence.
“I hope this isn’t the final agreement,” he added.
In other business, the supervisors approved a special-use permit amendment enabling the top of a cellular phone antenna mast off Harry Byrd Highway (Va. 7) to be raised by 10 feet.
Crown Castle International LLC wants to increase the monopole’s height to 120 feet so AT&T antennas can be place on the structure. Verizon, Shentel and T-Mobile already have antennas on it.
Monopoles are tall, solid poles, as opposed to traditional lattice-style towers and masts.
At the site, “the only change will be a little bit of equipment (added) on the ground and the extension on top” of the mast, said Jeremy Camp, the county’s senior planner and zoning administrator.
The mast actually is on the Stuart M. Perry Inc. site off Quarry Road east of Berryville. It sits back about 400 feet from Va. 7. However, it’s easily visible above the treeline near the highway’s intersection with Shepherds Mill Road (Va. 612).
Nobody spoke during a public hearing on the permit request. The supervisors said little before voting to approve it.
Also, the supervisors reappointed:
Peter Cook to the Barns of Rose Hill Board of Directors. Cook will serve a three-year term expiring in December 2024.
Tracy Smith to the Clarke County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Smith will serve a four-year term ending in December 2025.
Reid Dodson to the Clarke County Economic Development Advisory Committee. Dodson, too, will serve a four-year term expiring in December 2025.
Peter Engel and Walker Thomas to the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority. They will serve three-year terms ending in December 2024.
Denise Acker, Leea Shirley and Dr. Colin Greene to the Community Poilicy Management Team (CPMT). They also will serve three-year terms expiring in December 2024.
The CPMT manages the local Children’s Services Act program. Enacted in 1993, the legislation provides funds for behavioral health services for young people and their families.
Greene will serve as an alternate team member. He and Shirley will be switching roles, Boies said.