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Civil Commitment: A Way to Address America’s Opioid Crisis?

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 92 minutes
Recorded Date: October 05, 2017
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  • The Opiois Crisis in America
  • Involuntary Commitment for Substance Abuse
  • Painkillers and the CSA (21 US Code 812)
  • DSM 5 Criteria for Substance Abuse Disorder
  • Coerced Substance Abuse Treatment
  • Treatment Models and Methods
  • Drug Courts
  • Civil Commitment - Laws & Bills
  • Case Studies
Runtime: 1 hour and 32 minutes
Recorded: October 5, 2017
For NY - Difficulty Level: Experienced attorneys only (non-transitional)


An opioid addiction epidemic is killing more than 90 Americans each day. In Massachusetts, civil commitment has been used extensively to address this epidemic. Utah has passed a commitment law for opioid users. Some states such as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington are considering new civil commitment laws specifically designed for opioid use.

Our panel of experts will discuss an overview of the commitment laws for opioid users, the constitutionality of these laws and addressing their effectiveness in addressing the epidemic.

This program was recorded on October 5th, 2017

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Mary Catherine Roper

Deputy Legal Director
ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)

Mary Catherine Roper is the deputy legal director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, where she coordinates litigation on a broad range of civil liberties issues, including freedom of speech, religious liberty, racial and ethnic justice, equality for lesbians and gay men, student rights, privacy, prisoners’ rights, and police misconduct.

Prior to joining the ACLU, Mary Catherine was a partner in the firm of Drinker Biddle and Reath, where she was well known for her commitment to pro bono work.

Mary Catherine is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Anita B. Brody of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and served a year with the Disabilities Law Project as the first recipient of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellowship. (Philadelphia)

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Zarah Levin-Fragasso

The Lanier Law Firm

Zarah Levin-Fragasso has been an associate attorney at The Lanier Law Firm since January 2013. Her practice focuses on pharmaceutical and medical device products liability.

Ms. Levin-Fragasso was named a Super Lawyers™ Rising Star in 2017 and 2018 in the New York Metro area for her work in products liability at The Lanier Law Firm. Ms. Levin-Fragasso proudly fights for clients who have been harmed by corporate negligence and other wrongful conduct. In this capacity, she has worked on various federal and state court mass tort litigations.

Ms. Levin-Fragasso began college at sixteen years of age through Bard High School Early College. She completed her undergraduate work at Bard College in 2005, earning her B.A. at twenty years of age. She received her J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in 2011, where she served as an Associate Editor on the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy and was a two-time Students for Public Interest Law (“SPIL”) stipend recipient. During her law school career, Ms. Levin-Fragasso tried a bench and jury trial on behalf of indigent criminal defendants, therefore arguing cases against seasoned United States Attorneys.

Prior to joining The Lanier Law Firm, Ms. Levin-Fragasso interned with a nonprofit organization that focused on indigent eviction prevention, second-chaired two trials, and taught special education in the South and West Bronx as a 2012 New York City Teaching Fellow.

Ms. Levin-Fragasso is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey, as well as the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. A dedicated human rights advocate, Ms. Levin-Fragasso is a member of the American Association for Justice and the New York City Bar Association, where she chairs The Special Committee on Drugs and the Law, which was established in 1986. Through her work at the New York City Bar Association, Ms. Levin-Fragasso stewarded the publication of, and co-authored, a report on human rights and the world drug problem, titled “Charting a Wiser Course: Human Rights and the World Drug Problem,” which was released at a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem in April 2016. She also co-authored a letter to the editor regarding the UNGASS, which was published in The New York Times in April 2016. Furthermore, under her leadership, the Drugs and the Law Committee has presented multiple panels, including an event featuring Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole focused on the future of drug policy under the Trump Administration. Most recently, the Committee published a letter signed by Ms. Levin-Fragasso as Chair of the Drugs and the Law committee and John S. Kiernan, President of the New York City Bar Association. In October 2017, Ms. Levin-Fragasso served as faculty for an ABA Webinar regarding the use of civil commitment laws as a means to address America’s opioid epidemic.

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Kellie L. Sanders

Senior Associate
Cohen Cleary, PC

Attorney Sanders is a Senior Associate at Cohen Cleary, PC. She concentrates her legal practice in the areas of DUI Defense, Criminal Defense, Juvenile Delinquency Defense, Education Law, Restraining Orders, Adoption, Divorce, Child Support Modification, Family Law, Civil Litigation, Estate Litigation, Guardianship of Incapacitated Persons, Guardianship of Minors, Termination of Guardianship, Paternity, Visitation/Custody Dispute, 93A Consumer Protection, and General Litigation.

Born in Hammond, Indiana, Attorney Sanders lived in Indiana until she graduated from the Culver Girls Academy. She then went on to earn her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During her undergraduate program, Attorney Sanders volunteered in many programs during which time she began to cultivate the desire to assist people. She served as the Board of Director’s Chair for the Wisconsin Public Interest Group where she raised money for local homeless shelters, organized the second largest youth voter turnout for the 2004 presidential election, and lobbied Congressmen in Washington D.C. concerning student rights. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and was elected as the graduation commencement speaker.

In the summer of 2007, Attorney Sanders began a two-year service commitment with the AmeriCorps Teach for America Program. She taught high school math at an underperforming turn around school in Charlotte, North Carolina. There she developed a passion for working with young adults.

In May of 2012, Attorney Sanders earned her Juris Doctorate degree from Suffolk University Law School, cum laude. While at Suffolk, Attorney Sanders was chosen as a Marshall Brennan Constitutional Law Fellow, a program that allowed her to teach Constitutional Law and Literacy as well as coach Moot Court at City on a Hill Charter School in Roxbury. Additionally, she earned the John E. Fenton Jr. Award for Public Service for her commitment to helping those in need of legal services.

Prior to joining Cohen Cleary, Attorney Sanders worked as a Massachusetts Public Defender for the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Attorney Sanders is an active Member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, The American Bar Association-Criminal Defense and Family Law Sections, Plymouth County Bar Association, and the Plymouth District Court Bar Association. Attorney Sanders is an active member of the Plymouth and Bristol County Attorney’s Representing Children (ARC) program where she accepts pro-bono appointments from the Probate and Family Court representing children in high conflict custody disputes.

As of September of 2015, Attorney Sanders is a published co-author of Nature and Utilization of Civil Commitment for Substance Abuse in the United States: J. Am. Acad. Psychiatric Law, Vol. 43, Iss. 3 (2015).

In October of 2017 Attorney Sanders was selected by the American Bar Association to serve as a Moderator and Panelist for a webinar entitled: Civil Commitment: A Way To Address America’s Opioid Crisis?

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