2021 Symposium

Opioid Paradigms: How Crisis Can Inform Change

Presented by The Journal of Law in Society in partnership with the Levin Center

The Journal of Law in Society, in partnership with the Levin Center, will be holding a symposium March 10-12 about the opioid epidemic. The symposium will explore the motivations and shortcomings in the state's right- and left-handed responses to the opioid epidemic, as well as how we can move toward more effective knowledge and policy about opioids and the associated healthcare, drug sentencing and political/legal approaches to public health issues.

Due to COVID-19, the 2021 symposium will be held online and consist of three panels over three days. Registration details for the individual events are below. 

Panel 1: Access to Addiction Medical Care

March 10, noon


Opening remarks: Dean Richard A. Bierschbach, Wayne State University Law School

This panel will explore the barriers that individuals with opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders face in accessing medical treatment for addiction. The focus will be on what challenges people who should have access to treatment via insurance face in actually accessing treatment, and why these challenges have not been successfully eliminated. This panel will consider the limits of mental health parity, why insurers are incentivized to deny treatment, economic precarity within the insured opioid user population, and what state and federal policy options there are to change the existing incentives.

Speakers: Valarie Blake, professor of law, West Virginia University; Katherine Vukadin, professor of law, South Texas College of Law Houston; Taleed El-Sabawi, assistant professor of law, Elon University; and Matthew Lawrence, associate professor of law, Emory School of Law. Moderator: Associate Professor Lance Gable, Wayne State University Law School

Panel 2: Opioids and Emerging Justice Reforms

March 11, Noon


Opening remarks: Levin Center Director Jim Townsend, Wayne State University Law School

This panel will explore reforms in the criminal justice system in response to the opioid crisis and address how those changes are connected to broader calls for change. Public and legal views of the crisis have informed policy and created multiple responses within the criminal justice system. Panel topics will include how race informs drug sentencing, rural prosecution strategies and reforms, American cultural views of drug use and emerging policies to address opioids and other drug crises more effectively and humanely.

Panelists: Jelani Jefferson-Exum, professor of law, University of Detroit Mercy; Valena Beety, professor of law and deputy director of Academy for Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law; and Brittany Kelly, associate director, Hall Center for Law and Health, Indiana University. Moderator: Assistant Professor William Ortman, Wayne State University Law School

Panel 3: Policy and Public Health

March 12, Noon


This panel will address how opioid policy is connected to political and cultural narratives. It will connect the healthcare and criminal arms of opioid policy by presenting a view of how political and public attitudes shape the ways we address problems legally and in other professional fields. Panelists will discuss what creates counter-productive public narratives and what kind of structures and strategies lawyers and policymakers can use to move towards better thinking.

Panelists: Chief Judge Patrick Shannon, Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan; Courtney Anderson, associate professor of law, Georgia State University; and Robin Fretwell Wilson, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois College of Law.