Vilas County committee denies joining major opioid lawsuit with 5-1 vote Submitted: 01/16/2018
Allie Herrera
Allie Herrera

Vilas County committee denies joining major opioid lawsuit with 5-1 vote
VILAS COUNTY - All but 11 counties in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for contributing to the opioid crisis.

The lawsuit says certain companies use "deceptive marking" and have "created a false perception of the safety of opioids."

Vilas County is one of the 11 that hasn't joined yet. 

"It's unforgivable that we don't go after this. We need to stop this and yes, it's personal," said Bob Hanson. 

Years ago, Hanson served as a medic in Vietnam. He was told a pain drug called Demerol was safe and not habit forming. Hanson quickly learned that wasn't the case. 

"We sent them home with addiction problems," said Hanson. 

Hanson is now a Vilas County Board supervisor pushing to join the lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies. Last week, the county executive and legislative committee denied a proposal to join the lawsuit, which 85 percent of Wisconsin counties are currently a part of. 
"What I would like to see is that there is some resolution and some progress being made in stopping this opioid crisis that we have," said supervisor Walt Maciag, who voted against the lawsuit. 

The committee voted 5-1 against joining the lawsuit.

Supervisor Carolyn Ritter voted in favor of joining, she says there's an opioid crisis in Vilas County. 

"We have certainly seen the cost of it within the county budget both with law enforcement and with social services," said Ritter. 

Maciag said the resolution didn't have specific information, therefore, he felt like he couldn't make a decision. 

"Who we're going to sue and why we're going to sue them really wasn't specified," said Maciag.
Maciag thinks dealing with the users first would be more effective. 

"I would like to see our educational institutions have yearly programs at all grades to try to dissuade people from use," said Maciag. 

Maciag says he isn't against revisiting the resolution, but he wants more specific information.
Hanson says those questions can be answered, but he wants the county to join the fight as soon as possible. 

"There's no reason for us to be dragging our feet on this. We need to get moving on it," said Hanson. 

Newswatch 12 also spoke with Krista Baisch, a lawyer at Crueger Dickinson LLC, who said the goal of this lawsuit is to do something. She said it's important for cities and counties, regardless of size, to join in on this lawsuit. Baisch also said she hopes Vilas County reconsiders their decision.

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