In 2017, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators created the National Judicial Opioid Task Force to address the role of state courts in combating problems associated with opioid addiction. The Task Force has recently released its final report, which can be found here.
The four key findings of the Task Force are:
- There is a lack of access to and education about the use of quality, evidence-based treatment, including medication-based treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD)
- The most significant impact of the epidemic involves cases with children and families
- Congress and federal agencies must recognize state courts as essential partners in the response to the opioid crisis
- State courts must design programs and resources that will be effective responses to the next addiction crisis–not just opioids
I encourage you to read the whole thing for further context, and for recommendations on how state courts can respond to the crisis.
The Indianapolis Star has published an interesting op-ed from Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Tennessee State Court Administrator Deborah Taylor Tate, exploring (at a high level) how the national opioid epidemic has affected state courts. A snippet:
[O]ne fact remains: the state court justice system is now the primary referral source for addiction treatment in the country.
This reality has put enormous strain on our nation’s state courts, many of which have been overwhelmed by growing dockets and shrinking resources. In a recent survey of chief justices and state court administrators, 55 percent ranked the opioid epidemic’s impact on the courts as severe. The survey results are unsurprising, given the complexity of opioid cases: it takes an enormous amount of time to figure out what’s best for people who are addicted, how to care for their children, and what resources are available for them. And those who are placed in a treatment program with court oversight may remain involved with the court for years.
The courts are often the place of last resort for problems facing society, and have no choice but to address those problems creatively and (usually) with limited budgets. The opioid crisis is certainly playing out that way.