EMHS forced to end partnerships with municipalities suing former EMHS physicians in $1B opioid abuse lawsuit

EMHS was recently notified that some cities and counties in Maine, including the cities of Bangor and Portland, are pursuing a lawsuit against national pharma manufacturers and distributors for causing the opioid abuse epidemic. We are concerned that some physicians, formerly employed by EMHS member organizations, will be named in the suit as a legal tactic to keep the cases in Maine state courts. By suing individual physicians, these cities and counties have essentially named EMHS and any member organization that employed these physicians in the opioid lawsuit. The suit alleges that EMHS and its employed physicians caused the opioid abuse epidemic in this area and caused $1 billion in damages, including law enforcement costs, first responder costs, public health costs, and social services costs. 
The opioid abuse epidemic is a tragedy that demands the coordinated efforts of the best elements of our state and community. EMHS and its member organizations, including Eastern Maine Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, Acadia Hospital and others, have been participating in and, in many cases, leading such community efforts. 
In 2017, EMHS and its member organizations contributed more than $217 million in community benefit across our state. In addition to providing charity care to the uninsured and underinsured, including many affected by the opioid abuse epidemic, we regularly invest in community benefits such as research, education, community building, and community health improvement.
Regrettably, from this point forward, EMHS and its member organizations, including Eastern Maine Medical Center, Acadia Hospital, and Mercy Hospital have no choice but to end our participation in the Community Health Leadership Board and the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative. Both organizations are partnerships between health care providers and local government that seek to reduce stigma and increase understanding of substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery. We likely will be forced to withdraw from other, similar efforts across the state if other cities and counties join the suit.
Please understand that we cannot comment on any pending litigation, except to say that the allegation that EMHS, or formerly EMHS-employed physicians, caused the opioid abuse epidemic is legally and factually baseless and defending it will be a waste of time and resources that could otherwise be directed to the health and well-being of the people of Maine. We will vigorously defend ourselves against these baseless allegations at the appropriate time and place.
While we recognize that the terrible opioid abuse epidemic will require strong community partnerships, we have no choice but to withdraw from initiatives where participants include cities and counties that are suing us. We wish them well in their lawsuit against pharma manufacturers and distributors but are disheartened by the inclusion of Maine physicians, which puts in peril all the good work we were doing with our valued partners to address the opioid abuse epidemic.  We are also disappointed that the cities and counties are jeopardizing the financial well-being of their local hospitals by suing them for $1 billion dollars. Nevertheless, we will continue working on our own initiatives to address this serious public health threat, and we look forward to rejoining broader community efforts as soon as this matter is behind us.
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