Leaders from Law and Health Care Join LSC’s Opioid Task Force in Chicago to Discuss New Report

June 12, 2019

CHICAGO – The Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) Opioid Task Force will hold an event highlighting its newly released report on Wednesday, June 19, at 3 p.m. CDT at the offices of Sidley Austin LLP, 1 S. Dearborn Street, in downtown Chicago. 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—in collaboration with the judiciary, health care providers, government agencies, and other stakeholders—in assisting them.

American Bar Association President Robert Carlson and University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh will offer remarks. Harbaugh is a member of LSC’s Leaders Council and an advocate for ensuring access to justice to low-income individuals. They will be joined by Opioid Task Force Co-Chair David Hoffman and LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi, both partners with Sidley Austin.

A panel discussion on how the medical and legal communities can collaborate to tackle the opioid crisis will follow their remarks. The panel, “How Medical-Legal Partnerships Assist Individuals and Families Affected by the Opioid Epidemic,” will feature Trey Daly, Public Benefits Practice Group Director, LAF; Stephanie W. Harris, Development Director, Ohio State Legal Services Association; Katherine Higgins, Program Coordinator, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; and Jon Laramore, Executive Director, Indiana Legal Services. Ronald Flagg, LSC’s Vice President for Legal Affairs,  will serve as moderator.

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 Illinois, opioid overdoses have killed nearly 11,000 people since 2008.

Individuals and families affected by the opioid epidemic face a substantial number and variety of civil legal issues, such as caring for relatives, custody, domestic violence, health care, housing, insurance, and employment. 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 collaborative 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 other organizations that serve individuals and families affected by the opioid epidemic, such as youth organizations, social services organizations, 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 organizations 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.