The overuse, misuse, and abuse of legal and illegal opioids is a devastating crisis across the U.S.—not just to public health, but to every aspect of the fabric of our society: families, schools, workforce, safety, law enforcement, and now the court system. The problem is too complex to address exclusively in recovery or drug courts. It permeates every aspect of the administration of justice, from the thousands of children being placed into foster care, to loss of home and property, to conservatorship and bankruptcy.
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In August 2017, the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) established the National Judicial Opioid Task Force (NJOTF) to examine current efforts and find solutions to address the opioid epidemic. The NJOTF will make recommendations to courts at every level to support our Judiciary and help individuals find a successful recovery.
To inform and prioritize the work of the national task force, the eight-member executive task force committee led by co-chairs Indiana Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush and Tennessee State Court Administrator Deborah Taylor Tate distributed a nationwide survey which revealed six major needs:
1. State opioid plans;
2. Impact of the epidemic on courts;
3. Court interventions for adults, juveniles and families;
4. Treatment interventions;
5. Specialty court/docket interventions; and
In addition, almost all fifty states and Washington, D.C. have a state opioid task force from one or more of the three branches of government and several have declared a state of emergency precipitated by the rampant use of opioids. This table shows current state efforts with links to more detail where available.
An executive committee task force meeting was held in November 2017, highlighted by an informational presentation given by Dr. Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University. In January 2018, the executive committee convened and several presentations were given addressing issues and treatment methods for opioid abuse. Shortly after the convening, the executive committee developed five principles for state court systems to use as a point of reference in addressing the crisis.
In June 2018, the Task Force met in Indianapolis where speakers from national organizations presented their work concerning the opioid crisis, their available resources, and possible collaborations with the courts and the Task Force. Click here to access the presentations from all NJOTF meetings.
In addition to spearheading the development of the five principles, the NJOTF co-chairs are working on key activities to support task force efforts. Three workgroups have been established to address specific needs and issues. Purpose statements and a list of tentative projects have been developed for each workgroup with details below.