Everett council approves suit against Purdue Pharma

EVERETT — The Everett City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a motion to sue Purdue Pharma, alleging negligence by the drug manufacturer created the city’s opioid crisis.

“Our council is in full support because there is not a single member of our community that has not been impacted by this epidemic,” council Vice President Cassie Franklin said.

The lawsuit has been in the works for months, and was first reported Wednesday in The Daily Herald.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson devoted much of his annual State of the City address Wednesday morning outlining the city’s position.

A lawsuit now could be filed within days, Stephanson said.

The suit comes as the city increases its efforts to tackle the issues of homelessness and the related problems of addiction, mental health and street crime.

Stephanson cited a mix of past successes and telegraphed what’s to come this year. Addressing the social issues around homelessness top the list of the city’s priorities in the 2017 Legislative session.

Heroin addiction has grown rapidly in Everett and elsewhere in recent years. It’s widely believed that people who formerly abused the powerful painkiller OxyContin switched to cheaper heroin after Purdue changed the drug’s formulation to make it harder to smoke. The company improperly marketed OxyContin as a less-addictive drug and ignored evidence that it was being supplied through “pill mills” to drug traffickers who sold to addicts, records show.

“Our jails are overwhelmed, our treatment system lacks capacity to meet the growing needs, and our residents and businesses demand that we do more,” Stephanson said. “Purdue must be held accountable.”

He also highlighted the challenges that widespread opioid addiction have brought.

Many people taken to jail can’t be booked due to drug withdrawal and other medical problems, and there are many more people going through detox in jail than there are treatment beds available throughout the county, Stephanson said.

Stephanson has signed on to a proposal with five counties in north Puget Sound seeking $32 million from the Legislature to set up more treatment facilities throughout the region.

He credited Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary with working to increase medical services at the jail.

Stephanson also said he was working with Trenary, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman to explore innovations in incarceration and diversion programs.

“Our community deserves a system where the right people are in jail, the right people are diverted into alternative programs, and those who need treatment for addiction or mental illness can get the services they need,” Stephanson said.

The rest of the mayor’s speech was the familiar list of accomplishments from 2016, including the passage of Sound Transit 3, Boeing’s 777X production starting up this year, and Stephanson’s drive to build a 70-unit apartment house for chronically homeless people. The project is in the permitting phase and construction is expected to begin in the fall.

Another highlight of the year includes the opening of Washington State University’s medical school in August, which will have third- and fourth-year students taught in Everett by faculty at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, the Everett Clinic and Sea-Mar Community Health Center.

Everett Community College also opened a major expansion of its Advanced Manufacturing and Technical Education Center and enrolled 1,000 students last year, and plans to open its second student apartment house in the fall.

On Monday, Stephanson announced he was running for re-election to a fourth, full term as mayor.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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