Earlier this year, three Native American tribes in the Dakotas filed suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors, alleging that they concealed and minimized the addiction risk of prescription drugs. In January 2018, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate sued 24 opioid industry groups in federal court. Defendants include Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., and Allergan. Allegations in the suit range from deceptive marketing and fraud to violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). The complaint seeks monetary damages as well an “abatement fund” to pay for treatment programs.

The opioid epidemic poses one of the most significant public health threats in recent history, and is particularly rampant in Native American communities, which have the highest drug overdose rate of all minorities in the U.S. and have suffered some of the highest death rates. The complaint in the lawsuit described above noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one in 10 Native Americans used prescription opioids for non-medical purposes in 2012, which is double the rate of whites.

You may have read the headlines about the opioid crisis and think you understand its cause and effect, but there’s more to the story, especially as it relates to Native Americans. Gather in Scottsdale, Arizona April 5-6 with colleagues to learn, share, network, and collaborate at the Federal Bar Association’s 43rd Annual Indian Law Conference. To attend the informative session on the opioid epidemic’s influence on Native Americans, sign up today at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw18.

Don’t miss an insightful panel discussion at the Indian Law Conference on “IHS and the Opioid Epidemic” featuring renown speakers Carla M. DewBerry (K&L Gates LLP), Brian Gunn (Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville PC), James Nichols (Dorsey & Whitney LLP), and Aren Sparck (Seattle Indian Health Board; American Indian Health Commission).

Conference speakers will examine the role of the Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The stated goal of the IHS is to promote safe and effective therapies to help patients and providers optimally manage pain and stop the inappropriate use of pain medications.

As the statistics prove, many tribal nations are facing extreme impacts of drug abuse on their citizens that threaten the safety of their communities. Accordingly speakers will address the following subjects:

  • What is the historical context of the opioid epidemic in Indian Country?
  • Why does the opioid crisis impact Native Americans to a larger degree than the population at large?
  • How can doctors, lawyers, mental health professionals, and Native American populations address substance use disorder in Indian Country?
  • What drug treatment programs might be most effective to treating those residing in Indian Country?

The Indian Law Conference at the Talking Stick Resort will explore issues related to the opioid epidemic and Native Americans. Visit www.fedbar.org/indianlaw18 to register for this introspective and timely conference.

Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.