Eastern Shoshone Tribe joins fight against opioid epidemic

Photo h/t Michael Chingman

Eastern Shoshone Tribe press release:

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe is joining the numerous cities and counties across the U.S. who are pursuing a lawsuit against opioid abuse. As stated in the complaint filed by the Eastern Shoshone Tribe on June 7, 2019, in the U.S. District Court, Indian Country has been particularly hard hit, causing the Tribe to suffer substantial loss of resources, economic damages, and damages to health and welfare of its members. The lawsuit targets 24 pharmaceutical and distribution companies including Johnson & Johnson, Walgreen Co., and Walmart, Inc.


As the complaint states, “the Tribe has suffered in several different ways including the substantial increases in child welfare and social service costs associated with opioid addiction.” It goes on to say that its health services have been significantly impacted and education and addition therapy costs have substantially increased.

“We could not simply sit back and watch as others took on a huge role of bringing to light what this opioid epidemic has done to people,” said Shoshone Business Council Chairman Vernon Hill. “We knew we had to join the fight and share how our reservation and tribal members have also been severely impacted.”

This opioid epidemic has targeted counseling, treatment and rehabilitation services, treatment of infants born with opioid-related medical conditions, and has created an increased burden on the Tribe’s judicial system.

“Plaintiff has also suffered substantial damages in the form of lost casino revenue, lost productivity of tribal members, lost economic activity, lost reputation and goodwill, and the lost opportunity for growth and self-determination,” reads the complaint.

Prescription opioid abuse disproportionately impacts Native American communities, including the Shoshone Tribe. The Center for Disease Control reported in 2012 that 1 in 10 Native Americans over the age of 12 use prescription pain medicine for nonprescription purposes, compared with 1 in 20 whites and 1 in 30 African Americans. And while drug overdose deaths among all Americans increased more than 200 percent between 1999 and 2015, the death rate rose by more than 500 percent among Native Americans and native Alaskans.

Wyomingites, particularly those who live in the parts of the state near the Shoshone Tribe’s community, have very limited access to opioid treatment programs.

The Tribe seeks an award to cover the damages caused by the opioid epidemic, including: (a) costs for providing medical care, additional therapeutic and prescription drug purchases, and other treatments for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease, including overdoses and deaths; (b) costs for providing treatment, counseling, and rehabilitation services; (c) costs for providing treatment of infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; (d) costs for providing care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation; (e) costs associated with law enforcement and public safety relating to the opioid epidemic; (f) costs for cleanup of public areas; (g) costs for payment of opioids and opioid addiction treatment from the Tribe’s healthcare program; and (h) lost casino revenue.

The Shoshone Tribe is being represented by the lawfirms of Rosette, LLP and Skikos, Crawford, Skikos & Joseph, LLP who are joining forces to serve as co-counsel to represent the Tribe.