Brendan Wood is the Equal Justice Works Fellow at Legal Aid of West Virginia. His project will help West Virginians recovering from substance use disorder through Medication Assisted Treatment regain control of their lives by educating them and their communities on the ADA and other laws, and advocating for their access to employment, housing, and economic stability.
While there is no one demographic that has been left unharmed by the opioid crisis, rural West Virginia has been the epicenter. Those lucky enough to survive and begin the long road to recovery face substantial socioeconomic barriers. The nature of substance use disorder deprives many victims of access to resources and employment necessary for recovery, including access to legal counsel to protect their rights under the ADA and other legislation. Brendan’s project with Legal Aid of West Virginia will provide that access and create a referral network for education, counseling, group therapy, and self-help materials to address all the underlying issues to effectively mitigate key relapse factors.
As he began his legal studies, he watched in horror as his beautiful home state, his friends, and their families were ravaged by this epidemic. Brendan is eager for this opportunity to help the hardworking people of West Virginia regain control of their lives.
His fellowship has three key elements to address the issue: direct representation, comprehensive support and counseling beyond litigation, and community capacity-building education. Using the ADA, Brendan will actively litigate his clients’ claims to obtain and maintain employment, housing, and other forms of economic stability. Beyond litigation, he will continue his advocacy with clients by providing them with referrals to services known to increase the success rates of medication assisted treatment and decrease the risk factors of relapse. Finally, Brendan will build the capacity of individual communities to more effectively respond to the opioid crisis. By influencing the gatekeepers of socioeconomic stability—large employers, judges, key providers of housing, and politicians—the fellowship will ensure lasting positive impacts on these communities. Brendan and Legal Aid of West Virginia plan to publish the fellowship project as a blueprint to be replicated by other areas in West Virginia and in other states throughout the country.
Expert guests discussing COVID's effect on the Opioid Crisis and people who suffer from it.
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