WASHINGTON – LSC’s two recently formed task forces have completed their initial organizing sessions and are set to hold field hearings in the weeks to come.
The Opioid Task Force convened an organizational meeting on Wednesday at the Washington office of Sidley Austin, which is underwriting its work. The task force plans three more meetings in the next ten months, with field hearings tentatively scheduled for Indianapolis in October and Louisville, Ky. in February. The final meeting will be held in Washington, D.C., in April. The 27 members of the task force include health care and public health experts, judges, leaders in business and law, and other stakeholders.
Over the past few years, the opioid epidemic has emerged as a serious public health care crisis. More than two million Americans currently suffer from opioid-related substance use disorders. Civil legal issues frequently arise for people suffering from these disorders and for their families, including problems related to child support and custody, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, housing, health benefits, and employment.
Two weeks earlier, LSC’s Disaster Task Force held a similar meeting at the Washington office of Latham & Watkins, which is supporting its work. The Disaster Task Force is planning field hearings in Houston and Miami in the months to come. The 62 members of the task force, include experts in emergency management, business, law, and other fields.
Since 2013, the federal government has issued 248 major disaster declarations. Low-income survivors face significant obstacles in their path to recovery, including civil legal problems. Survivors often need help obtaining copies of important documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards to apply for or restore benefits and supports. Low-income and other vulnerable people who need housing after an emergency are also more susceptible to scams and price gouging.
LSC’s task forces will focus on how civil legal aid can most effectively serve as a resource for people struggling with opioid addiction or in the aftermath of a natural disaster.