A conversation with a cleaning woman helped convince Wynne du Mariau Caffey-Knight that there was good reason for the extensive opioid education and outreach program she was planning to unveil to members of the Knoxville (Tenn.) Bar Association this year.
“I said, ‘How are you?’ and she said, ‘OK.’ And she walked away,” says Caffey-Knight, the bar’s president. “I said, ‘What is wrong?’ And she said that her son had overdosed—and she had found him with the needle in his arm. It’s just everywhere.”
Spurred on by such tales of heartbreak and addiction, as well as her own personal experiences and observations, Caffey-Knight and the Knoxville bar have launched a multipronged informational campaign that involves lawyers, judges, medical professionals, law enforcement, and family members—all with experiences combating the opioid epidemic in the Knoxville area.
On the national front, the Legal Services Corp. called attention to this crisis in June 2019, with the release of the LSC Opioid Task Force Report. The task force spent 11 months meeting in person and by phone, hearing from subject matter experts and discussing the intersection of the opioid epidemic and civil legal aid.
"The LSC Opioid Task Force strongly encourages LSC to embrace a leadership role in promoting civil legal aid as a critical component of the nation’s response to the opioid epidemic," the task force notes in its summary.
Although CLE programming related to opioids is a regular staple at many bars nationwide, Caffey-Knight and others say there is plenty more that state, metro and local associations can do to educate their members and to enlist their support across a range of activities—from pro bono work to lobbying for court funding. A sweeping, coordinated effort involving the legal, law enforcement and social service communities is needed, they say, to confront an addiction crisis that continues to evolve and that touches most every community in the country.