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Programs for lawyers with alcoholism and other problems expand their scope, ABA survey finds


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Programs for lawyers with alcoholism and other problems expand their scope, ABA survey finds

By Irma Romero

CHICAGO, Oct. 3, 2013 — Lawyers suffering from alcoholism, substance abuse and mental health issues can turn to an array of support programs from state bar associations and other sources, according to a new report from the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.

The study, based on a 2012 survey of lawyer assistance programs in 48 states and the District of Columbia, found that despite budget reductions in some jurisdictions, programs reported a continued commitment to maintaining the number of clients served and offering a diversity of services for a range of issues. While all programs continued to offer services related to alcoholism and drug addiction, more programs in 2012 than in 2010 provided services for other problems, such as cognitive impairment. 

The report noted that lawyer assistance programs referred more than 1,000 cases to treatment programs in 2012. As in previous years’ surveys, respondents reported that alcohol was by far the most commonly abused substance. However, abuse of prescription drugs has emerged as the second greatest concern, accounting for as many matters as cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin combined.

Although an increasing number of programs are using social media and electronic communication to reach out to lawyers, underutilization continued to be the highest-rated problem reported by lawyer assistance programs. This suggests that more work can be done to connect lawyers with the services they may need, the report said. 

The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs provides support for state bar-sponsored and other lawyer assistance programs across the country. It also develops policies to keep lawyers and judges who suffer from stress, addiction and related problems from harming clients and the public while enabling them to get the help they need. The commission provides a directory of state lawyer assistance programs and a speakers’ bureau directory

The 2012 Comprehensive Survey of Lawyer Assistance Programs is available online.

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