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Jacksonville Councilman Reacts To President’s Public Health Emergency Declaration

City of Jacksonville
City of Jacksonville

The same week President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency; officials in Jacksonville are readying a lawsuit against companies who manufacture the drug.

City leaders allege the pharmaceutical industryengaged in deceptive business practices.

On average three people die of opioid overdoses in Jacksonville every day, according to the city’s medical examiner.

It’s that ever growing body count that spurred City Councilman Bill Gulliford to explore a lawsuit against drug manufacturers for deceptive marketing.

“It is the responsibility of a lot of greedy pharmaceutical companies that sold doctors initially on the idea that it was not addictive when it was horribly addictive,” he said.

The city council voted Tuesday to proceed with lawsuit and directed the Office of General Counsel to select an outside law firm to represent Jacksonville in court.

Related: Trump Administration Declares Opioid Crisis A Public Health Emergency

Gulliford praised Trump’s Thursday public health emergency declaration, but said he hopes it’s just the first step in a comprehensive response from the federal government.

“Anything that brings more and more attention to this pandemic, this crisis, is a benefit. The weight of a president bringing attention to that issue is certainly significant,” he said. “My first reaction was ‘great,’ now how about some funding to go along with it?”

Trump’s public health emergency declaration stops short ofwhat NPR reports the president promised months ago — a national emergency declaration. The latter could have released federal funding for treatment programs immediately.

Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.