LSC Opioid Task Force

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The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis, devastating urban, suburban, and rural communities across the United States. Each day, 115 Americans die from opioid overdose. Over two million Americans are currently living with an opioid-related substance use disorder. Opioid-related disorders physically and psychologically cripple individuals and destroy family connections. A broad range of civil legal issues are frequently associated with such disorders, including issues related to child support/child custody/guardianship, health benefits, domestic violence, housing, employment, and child abuse and neglect.

As best practices for treatment and recovery emerge, policymakers, the criminal justice system, and public health officials have begun to recognize that a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach is needed both to help people recover from opioid-related disorders and to prevent additional individuals from becoming addicted in the future. There has been increased focus on how legal services and other social services can serve as critical recovery resources alongside medical treatment. For example, dozens of LSC grantees participate in medical-legal partnerships, which are flexible, collaborative arrangements in which legal professionals are embedded in a health care organization to address the unmet civil legal needs of patients that directly impact health outcomes.

Despite legal aid’s impact in helping individuals and families dealing with opioid-related disorders, there remains a significant gap in awareness regarding the prevalence of civil legal issues associated with the epidemic and the role civil legal aid providers can play in addressing those issues. Many organizations responding to opioid-related disorders are unaware not only of the issues facing individuals and families affected by the opioid epidemic, but also of their legal rights.

Opioid Task Force’s was comprised of a diverse group of LSC grantees, health care and public health experts, judges, business leaders, and other stakeholders. Its primary goals were:

  • Educate public health officials and treatment providers about the legal obstacles patients face in obtaining and remaining in treatment;

  • Educate judges, law enforcement officials, child welfare workers, and employers about the civil legal issues connected to medication-assisted treatment for opioid-related disorders;

  • Engage with public health officials, treatment providers, and others to promote a comprehensive model of recovery that includes legal aid attorneys as resources for individuals and families affected by the opioid epidemic; and 

  • Provide a forum for study and discussion of potential best practices for engaging legal aid attorneys in the recovery process and identify and make recommendations to promote such practices.

To read more about the work of LSC’s other task forces, click here.


Opioid Task Force Report

The report’s recommendations are organized according to audience. Part II addresses civil legal aid providers and LSC; Part III addresses the judiciary and law enforcement; and Part IV addresses treatment providers and public health officials.

Opioid Task Force Members

Opioid Task Force Members List

Kathryn Cates-Wessel            
Chief Executive Officer           
American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

Jay Chaudhary
Managing Attorney/Director of Medical-Legal Partnerships
Indiana Legal Services 

Sally Friedman           
Legal Director
Legal Action Center

Brandon George
Indiana Addiction Issues Coalition

 Jim Harbaugh*           
Head Football Coach   
University of Michigan

Stephanie Harris         
Development Director
Ohio State Legal Services Association

Maha Jweied  
Access to Justice Consultant
Former Acting Director, U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice  

Judge Patricia Keller   
Family Court Judge, Sixth Family Court Circuit          
State of West Virginia

Jenny Kim*     
Deputy General Counsel, Political Law & Vice President, Public Policy        
Koch Companies Public Sector LLC

Abby Kuzma   
Former Assistant Attorney General and Chief Counsel for Victims Services and Outreach Division; Co-Founder       
Office of the Indiana Attorney General; Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic

Ellen Lawton   
National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership

Richard Lee
General Counsel
Civis Analytics

Patrick Murphy*         
Former Undersecretary          
United States Army

Cody Nelson
Executive Director
Anishinabe Legal Services

Dr. Robert Onders      
Medical Director of Community and Health Systems Improvements           
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Richard Pogue*           
Senior Advisor
Jones Day

Dr. Elizabeth Quinn    
Family Physician & Associate Medical Director         
Lynn Community Health Center

Rebecca Rapp
General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, Ascendium Education Group 
Former Judge, Dane County Circuit Court

Chief Justice Paul Reiber        
Chief Justice    
Vermont State Supreme Court

Julie Reiskin    
Executive Director       
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition

Chief Justice Loretta Rush     
Chief Justice    
Indiana Supreme Court

Tarra Simmons          
Skadden Fellow; Co-Chair       
Public Defender Association; Washington Statewide Reentry Council

Radhika Singh             
Director, Civil Legal Aid Initiatives     
National Legal Aid and Defender Association

Deborah Taylor-Tate  
Director; Co-Chair       
Administrative Office of the Courts; National Judicial Opioid Task Force

Dr. Mishka Terplan
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Psychiatry, Associate Director of Addiction Medicine, and Medical Director of MOTIVATE
Virginia Commonwealth University

Joseph Winkels*         
Carlson, Caspers

Adrienne Worthy        
Executive Director       
Legal Aid of West Virginia

Salle Yoo*       
Former General Counsel        

*Member of LSC Leaders Council