INDIANA — Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush will co-chair a national task force aimed at finding solutions to the country's opioid epidemic.

"The misuse of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and prescription pain medicines is not only a devastating public health crisis, it is critically affecting the administration of justice in courthouses throughout the United States," a news release from the state's high court said.

"In response to this national crisis, top state court leaders formed a task force to find solutions, examine current efforts, and make recommendations to address the opioid epidemic’s ongoing impact on the justice system."

The task force was announced Wednesday by the National Center for State Courts, or NCSC, on behalf of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. The two groups adopted a policy resolution at their recent annual conference to establish the task force.

Rush, who is also on the Conference of Chief Justices Board of Directors, is "committed to working with her colleagues across the country to address the issue."

“While much attention has deservedly been focused on this epidemic’s health impact, we cannot ignore the significant legal issues it also raises," Rush said in the release. "It has become a recurring theme throughout our nation that this crisis is crippling our communities and overwhelming our courts.”

The work plan for the judicial branch task force includes the following strategies:

• Convening representatives from state and federal governments and key national organizations to share existing strategies and identify unmet needs

• Creating partnerships with entities addressing the impact of opioids on children with specific emphasis on foster care, assisting state courts in developing opioid task forces, and working with existing state task forces to make recommendations for local response efforts

• Developing guiding principles that state courts can use for successful collaboration among treatment providers, criminal justice systems, and child welfare agencies

• Creating a checklist of state legislation, policy, and court rules that aid or inhibit response efforts

Rush is co-chairing the task force with the Tennessee State Court Administrator Deborah Taylor Tate. Other task force members include Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady, New Mexico Chief Justice Judith Nakamura, Vermont Chief Justice Paul Reiber, Michael Buenger of Ohio, Nancy Dixon of Kansas, and Corey Steel of Nebraska.

An initial meeting of the members of the task force will take place in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 13.

Financial support for the study group comes from the State Justice Institute. The NCSC will provide additional funding, as well as staffing support.

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