Court Leader’s Advantage Podcast: March 2020 Episode

Over 10 million Americans misused opioids in 2018, which includes over 800,000 heroin users.  In 2016, there were more than 64,000 overdose deaths in the United States; in 2017 overdose deaths jumped to over 70,000.  This is a number that continues to grow in at least 23 states.  Opioid addiction is a crisis that defies age and sex differences; it defies county and state lines; up to now it has defied all attempts to curb this plague.  No one questions that opioid addiction is a national crisis and it is not slacking off.

Are the nation’s courts ready to take the lead in fighting this epidemic?  What needs to be done and who should do it?  

Judge O. Duane Sloan with the Circuit Court in the Fourth Judicial District of Tennessee and Director Deborah Taylor Tate, head of the Administrative Office of the Courts for the Supreme Court of Tennessee and Co-Chair of the National Judicial Opioid Task Force, will discuss the recent Task Force Report and the efforts by the Nation’s Courts to take the lead in solving this countrywide crisis.

This is an interesting podcast episode for listeners concerned about opioid addiction, drug eradication efforts, drug treatment, treatment and problem-solving courts, and court administration.

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About the Speakers

Judge O. Duane Sloan is a judge with the Circuit Court in the Fourth Judicial District of Tennessee.  In 2019 the Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts awarded Judge Slone the National Center for State Courts’ William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, one of the highest judicial honors in the country.  He has been recognized for his groundbreaking work helping people with opioid use disorder.

Combatting the opioid epidemic is not just a professional commitment for Judge Slone. It’s personal.  In 2011, Judge Slone and his wife, Gretchen, adopted an infant son who was born suffering from withdrawals as a result of his birth mother’s opioid use. 

This knowledge and understanding shaped Judge Slone’s approach to helping those who come into his court. “We must understand that addiction is a preventable, treatable condition and people recover. We must go as far upstream as possible, meet people where they are, and provide hope and healing. I believe it is our duty as judges to find a way to help them.”

Judge Sloan is also the 2018 recipient of the National Center for State Courts, “Distinguished Service” Award; the 2017 Tennessee Association of Recovery Court Professionals, “Judges Making a Difference” Award; and the 2016 Tennessee Public Health Association, “Visionary” Award, given for work in reducing incidences of births with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, including innovations in rural Tennessee to provide healthy housing and access to prenatal medical and behavioral health care.

Deborah Taylor Tate is the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts for the Supreme Court of Tennessee, the Conference of State Court Administrators and the Co-Chair of the National Judicial Opioid Task Force for state courts across the nation. She is a licensed attorney and Supreme Court Rule 31 mediator, who, in addition to her presently held office, also serves as Distinguished Senior Scholar at the Free State Foundation and Adjunct Lecturer at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

She was twice-nominated to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2005. She served as Commissioner of the FCC until 2009, serving as chair of two Federal Joint Boards overseeing over $7B in advanced telecommunications services. At the time of her presidential appointment, Ms. Tate was serving as the chairman and director of the Tennessee Public Service Commission. Her previous state positions also include executive director of the Health Facilities Commission and as senior staff -assistant General Counsel for then-Governor, Senator Lamar Alexander and a Senior policy advisor to Governor Don Sundquist for mental/behavioral health.  In addition, she was director of the State and Local Policy Institute at Vanderbilt University. She served as chairman of the board of directors for Centerstone, Inc., the largest not-for-profit community mental health provider in the U.S., and presently serves on the national board of directors for the Centerstone Research Institute, the leading informatics, analytics and clinical research provider for behavioral health. She serves on the Board of Healthstream (HSTM) the national leading online provider of healthcare education and talent management in the healthcare/post-acute sectors. She also serves as vice-chairman of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council in DC. Ms. Tate received both her undergraduate degree and Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the University of Tennessee and attended Vanderbilt Law School. She has received numerous local, national and international awards for her professional, public and nonprofit service including the first Laureate for Child Online Protection from the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva. Recently she was awarded the End Slavery Public Service award for her work with Human Trafficking.

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