History and Mission
Beyond Opioids began as a lunch in Jonesboro, AR. Managing Public Defender of the 2nd Judicial District, Brian Miles, asked Lee Richardson, Executive Director of Legal Aid, about possibly sending legal aid attorneys to help his clients charged with drug-related offenses who need support in addressing the stressors that led them to his docket. They are financially distraught, have complicated familial relationships, often homeless or in deplorable housing conditions, and overwhelmed by life’s demands. They are arrested and their driver’s licenses are suspended, adding a layer of stress to their already traumatized condition. They are cut off from their children, triggering a downward spiral of hopelessness that often led to overdose that is, at times, fatal. Legal Aid set in motion an 18-month inquiry on the needs and challenges they face relating to SUD. When the compelling assessment came, The Center joined the mission to lead our legal community to treat SUD in our practice as a public health issue as opposed to a moral and personal failing.
Launched on September 1, 2020, Beyond Opioids is a joint-project between the two legal aid programs in Arkansas, Legal Aid of Arkansas (Legal Aid) and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services (CALS). The project provides free civil legal aid for low-income Arkansans impacted by substance use disorder (SUD) and especially opioid use disorder (OUD). Potential clients include but are not limited to 1) people in active use, treatment, or recovery, 2) minors whose parents are in active use, treatment, or recovery, 3) people filling familial roles for minors whose parents are in active use treatment, or recovery, and 4) individuals who have or are actively harmed by a person at any stage of SUD.
Prior to Beyond Opioids, Legal Aid received a planning grant award of $200,000 from Human Services and Resources Administration's (HRSA) to identify the needs of Arkansas SUD population and to develop a consortium who will provide direct services through its Rural Communities Opioid Response (RCORP) program. Subsequently, CALS and Legal Aid received $1 million each under HRSA’s RCORP-Implementation funding program to provide direct services for a period of three years (September 1, 2020 – August 31, 2023).
Under HRSA’s RCORP framework, Beyond Opioids developed a consortium of SUD prevention, treatment, and recovery providers, as well as community organizations and state agencies.
Beyond Opioid's mission is simple: help Arkansans defeat the opioid epidemic ravaging the state by removing one of the many barriers that can hinder a person's prevention, treatment, and recovery journey and reunite families impacted by this disease.