National court leaders gather in Indy to discuss opioid crisis

Court leaders from across the country met in Indianapolis on Tuesday to brainstorm how the judiciary can best respond to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The National Judicial Opioid Task Force met for two days to discuss solutions on how the courts can effectively serve families, individuals and communities impacted by the crisis.

Task force co-chairs Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush and director of the Administrative Office of the Tennessee Courts Deborah Taylor Tate discussed the epidemic’s impact on the courts and best practices and resources to address the challenges.

Formed in September 2017, the task force aims to work alongside state, local, and federal agencies to tackle the opioid epidemic’s ongoing impact on the justice system.

“The issue that comes before us with the opioid epidemic is unlike anything I’ve seen,” Rush said. “There’s really no docket that’s not affected by it. Setting up a frame work from a national perspective for the judges to take back to their states is urgent.”

The 29-member task force consists of chief justices, state court administrators and other court leaders from across the country focused on three key categories of the issue — children and families, civil and criminal justice, and collaboration and education.

One main point Rush discussed is the current need to provide resources and tools that best fit different communities in each state. She said she thinks communities are the starting point for finding solutions.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this,” she said. “Communities are just struggling right now in regards to meeting the needs of response.”

Members also discussed training the judiciary using best practices informed by prevention and treatment. Rush said that sums up the content of an upcoming statewide opioid summit to be presented by the Indiana judicial branch in July.

The summit will include training on the science of addiction, evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders including medication-assisted treatment, available resources, and an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss the crisis in their communities.

“I’ve never seen another issue come up in my lifetime as a judge that was more important to work together to find answers than this one,” Rush said. “There’s a lot of work to do.”

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