Legal Profession ‘Critical’ to Addressing Opioid Crisis: ABA

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The legal profession can play a “critical” role in combating the growing opioid crisis in America, says the American Bar Association (ABA).

In a new report by the ABA’s Senior Lawyers Division, the nation’s top legal association made nine recommendations and suggested 45 action items aimed at confronting an epidemic that took more than 42,000 lives in 2016, and was named a “public health emergency” in 2017 by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The legal profession’s voice is critical to advancing public health efforts to confront the opioid epidemic, including efforts focused on prevention, intervention, and treatment,” the ABA said.

According to the report, lawyers can provide alternatives to criminal sentencing, mandate education and training, strengthen data tracking and reporting requirements, and aid and support collaboration across agencies focused on developing family-friendly policies and resources–to name a few.

The report and its recommendations will be used to collaborate with other ABA entities to develop specific policy resolutions that address the opioid crisis.

“The epidemic is shortening American life expectancy, impacting local government budgets, straining family resources and relationships, and challenging all of us to find solutions,” said Jack Young, chair of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division.

“It affects all of us.”

Notably, the Senior Lawyers Division plans to have a resolution approving the report’s recommendations and action items reviewed by the ABA House of Delegates as early as the ABA Midyear Meeting in January 2019.

The report made the following recommendations:

  1. Invest in multidisciplinary education and training opportunities for individuals, families, vulnerable populations, professionals, and community stakeholders.
  2. Expand access to treatment and recovery for individuals with opioid and substance misuse disorders and aggressively address stigmatism.
  3. Establish comprehensive treatment and outreach efforts tailored to the diverse needs of individuals and families struggling with opioid and substance misuse disorders.
  4. Increase the legal profession’s capacity to respond to and meet individual and family needs through partnerships, collaboration, and dissemination of information and resources in support of individual and family needs.
  5. Promote policies and laws that support families and caregivers struggling with opioid and substance misuse disorders.
  6. Support policies and laws that support families in crisis and strengthen the family unit.
  7. Identify state laws and initiatives that have been shown to decrease opioid and substance misuse while ensuring access to pain medications for those with chronic pain.
  8. Expand research and understanding of litigation and policy issues with the aim of addressing the sometimes indirect yet complex issues affected by the opioid crisis.
  9. Recognize the inconsistent response and action to the opioid crisis versus other forms of substance misuse and advocate for policies that address underlying health and socioeconomic disparities.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

This summary was prepared by Megan Hadley, senior reporter for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments welcome.

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