Berwick joins opioid litigation

St. Mary, Morgan City, Patterson all on board, too

The town of Berwick has joined several other area councils in signing on to participate in lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

On Tuesday, the town council approved a resolution to hire outside legal counsel to possible damages regarding the national, statewide or local opioid litigation. Under the resolution, the attorneys representing the town would only receive payment contingent upon Berwick receiving an award of damages as a result of the litigation.

Several other area councils, including St. Mary Parish, Morgan City and Patterson, have joined the litigation, too.

Attorneys, speaking on behalf of plaintiffs in the lawsuits, have said that opioid manufacturers labeled opioids as safe to treat chronic pain without scientific evidence.

Healthcare Distribution Alliance is the national trade association representing opioid distributors, including AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

“Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated,” said John Parker, senior vice president of Healthcare Distribution Alliance, in a statement.

During the meeting, the Berwick council adopted the town’s budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Total expenses in the budget are $4.23 million, and revenues total $5.26 million. The projected ending fund balance is $3.79 million.

Town officials only plan to do one project with state capital outlay funds in the 2018-19 fiscal year . That project is estimated to cost $50,000 and will replace PVC pipe for natural gas use in Golden Farms Subdivision with a different type of pipe, said Newell “Bubba” Slaughter, town chief administrative officer.

Expected spending by department is $1.04 million for general government, $963,976 for the police department, $133,429 for the fire department, $401,889 for streets, $176,301 for drainage, $294,065 for recreation, $45,000 for cemetery maintenance and $3,500 for the Berwick Development District. Also listed under the expenses are $1.17 million in combined special revenues, which includes sewer, trash pickup, sales taxes and property taxes, Slaughter said.

The originally adopted budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year ending Sept. 30 projected $4.33 million in total expenses and $5.08 million in revenues.

The Berwick council also amended the 2017-18 budget at the meeting. The amendments entailed increasing state grant income by $750,000, increasing sewer capital outlay by $1.75 million, reducing the transfer to general fund from road/street fund by $100,000, reducing the transfer to the general fund from liquid and solids by $150,000, increasing the transfer to water revenue fund by $40,000, increasing the transfer to gas revenue fund by $10,000, decreasing property tax income by $25,000, increasing grant funds from St. Mary Parish for the street/road fund by $375,000 and increasing capital outlay for streets by $375,000.

In other business, the council tabled action on Atchafalaya River Estates, a proposed residential development along La. 182 across from Renwick Subdivision.

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