Leaders from the Law and Health Care Communities Join LSC’s Opioid Task Force in Nashville

June 25, 2019

NASHVILLE, TN – The Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) Opioid Task Force will hold an event marking the release of its report on Thursday, June 27, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. CDT at the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Task Force’s report identifies the civil legal issues that individuals and families affected by the opioid crisis face and the critical role that legal aid attorneys can play, offering recommendations on how legal aid providers can collaborate with the medical, judicial, law enforcement, and other communities to best confront the opioid crisis. The event will be held in conjunction with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.

Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins of the Tennessee Supreme Court will deliver remarks at the event.  He will be joined by Victor B. Maddox, Co-Chair of LSC Opioid Task Force and Partner at Fultz Maddox Dickens PLC; Catherine Clayton, Executive Director of West Tennessee Legal Services; Cody Nelson, Executive Director of Anishinabe Legal Services; and Deborah Taylor Tate, Director of Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.

Experts from the health care community will also take part, including Dr. David E. Marcovitz, Medical Director, Vanderbilt University Hospital Addiction Consult Service and Bridge Clinic; Dean Linda Norman, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing; Commissioner Lisa Piercey of the Tennessee Department of Health; and Commissioner Marie Williams of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The opioid epidemic has emerged as one of the most serious public health care crises in American history. Since 1999, at least 400,000 people in the United States have died from an overdose involving opioids, and more than two million Americans currently suffer from opioid-related substance use disorders. In Tennessee, more than three people die from an opioid overdose every day, with more than five thousand deaths since 2013.

Individuals and families affected by the opioid epidemic face a substantial number and variety of civil legal issues, such as caring for relatives, custody disputes, domestic violence, access to health care, evictions; and difficulty accessing insurance and employment benefits. Individuals with opioid use disorder often encounter legal barriers to obtaining or maintaining access to medication-assisted treatment.

Legal aid providers are key to addressing the legal issues that prevent treatment and recovery. The Task Force’s recommendations focus on fostering collective responses to the opioid epidemic. For example, medical-legal partnerships—collaborations in which health care providers and legal aid lawyers work together to serve patients’ needs—create opportunities to reach people who would not have identified their problems as legal ones, and they allow individuals to access lawyers quickly and easily when legal help is needed.

The Task Force also recommends greater collaboration among legal aid providers and others that serve individuals and families affected by the opioid epidemic, such as youth, social services, and faith-based organizations, schools, local law enforcement, state agencies, family justice centers, and local peer recovery groups. The report details the need for treatment providers and state and local public health officials to promote the inclusion of civil legal aid attorneys and staff in opioid response efforts.

Finally, the Task Force’s report highlights how additional funding would strengthen civil legal aid's ability to assist individuals and families affected by the opioid epidemic.

To view the briefing online, visit LSC’s Facebook page, or follow the conversation on Twitter at #LSCopioid.

Visit LSC’s Opioid Task Force page for membership information, videos, and other material relevant to the Task Force’s work. Read “Strengthening the Role of Civil Legal Aid in Responding to the Opioid Epidemic: Report of the LSC Opioid Task Force” here.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.