From Punishment to Public Health: Ending the Overdose Crisis

Event Information

Share this event

Date and Time



Moritz College of Law

55 West 12th Avenue

Saxbe Auditorium

Columbus, OH 43210

View Map

Event description


Over the last decade, the United States has found itself in the middle of a drug overdose crisis. Provisional data for 2016 put the number of overdose fatalities at over 64,000—a staggering 22 percent increase from the year before. And the state of Ohio is at the epicenter. In 2016, Ohio ranked second in the nation in drug overdose death rates (at 39.1 per 100,000) and third in the nation in the total number of deaths (4,329), which translates into nearly 12 citizens losing their lives to a drug overdose each day.

This conference will explore the impact of criminal justice laws and policies in compounding drug use harms, including overdose deaths, and offer an alternative framework for addressing problematic drug use and drug-related fatalities that is rooted in evidence, compassion, and the principles of harm reduction.


  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Drug Enforcement and Policy Center
  • Harm Reduction Ohio
  • ACLU—Ohio


  • The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health
  • The Ohio State University College of Public Health
  • Harm Reduction Coalition


Saxby Auditorium, Moritz College of Law



11:30-12:00: Registration

12:00-12:15: Welcome and Framing

  • Lindsay LaSalle, JD, Director of Public Health Law and Policy, Drug Policy Alliance

12:15-1:00: Keynote Speaker—A War on People: History and Implications of the Drug War

Dr. Roberts will provide an overview of the history of the drug war and its racist origins and the impact of drug war policies, including mass criminalization, devastation of communities of color, and divestment in a public health and social safety infrastructure that could better address the harms of addiction.

  • Dr. Samuel Roberts, PhD, Director of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African American Studies, Associate Professor of History, and Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

1:00-2:15: Panel 1—Doubling Down on Punishment: A Knee Jerk Response to Increasing Deaths

As overdose fatalities continue to rise, so does the punitive response to people who use and sell drugs. Elected officials and law enforcement are doubling down on ineffective policies that not only have no impact on reducing overdose deaths, but actually compound the problem. This panel will explore the use of drug-induced homicide charges, increased penalties for people who use and sell fentanyl, and the false dichotomy between “user” and “seller” often underlying these policies.

  • Alex Kreit, JD, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law (visiting professor at OSU Moritz College of Law) (moderator)
  • Leo Beletsky, JD, Associate Professor of Law and Health Sciences, School of Law & Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University
  • Bill Ebben, JD, Father of overdose victim; lawyer, businessman, and former special education teacher
  • Lindsay LaSalle, JD, Director of Public Health Law and Policy, Drug Policy Alliance
  • Carter Stewart, JD, Managing Director, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation

2:15-3:30: Panel 2—“Treatment Instead of Incarceration”: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Even as we move slowly away from criminalization and embrace “treatment instead of incarceration” in light of the overdose crisis, the myth of the needed “stick” looms large. This panel will evaluate the ways in which the criminal justice system has coopted the treatment system, with particular emphasis on drug courts. Panelists will review the risks and lack of evidence associated with mandatory treatment and discuss the many drawbacks of drug courts and other forms of forced treatment, including inherent coercion, lack of standardization, net widening, unequal application, punitive sanctions, and limitations of abstinence-only programs. The panel will also analyze how access to treatment in the community, which could decrease rates of overdose, has been impacted by the overreach of the criminal justice system.

  • Denise Tomasini-Joshi, JD, Division Director for Health Law and Equality, Open Society Public Health Program, Open Society Foundations (moderator)
  • Jay Clark, JD, Law Offices of Ravert J. (Jay) Clark and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Christine Mehta, MPP, Research Assistant Professor, Data and Investigative Journalism, Syracuse University
  • M-J Milloy, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia
  • Jasmine Tyler, MA, Advocacy Director, US Program, Human Rights Watch

3:30-3:45: Break

3:45-4:00: Speaker 2—Policy and Punishment: How Drug Law Enforcement Has Impacted Public Health and Overdose

The massive enforcement of laws criminalizing personal drug use and possession in the United States causes devastating harm. Dr. Susan Sherman will examine the emerging scientific evidence on public health issues, including overdose, arising from drug control policy and explore how the war on drugs interrupts systems of social support that could help us address the overdose crisis.

  • Susan Sherman, PhD, Professor, Bloomberg School of Public Health, John Hopkins University

4:00-5:15: Panel 3—Law Enforcement to the Rescue?: The Role of Police and Prosecutors in Addressing the Overdose Crisis

If personal drug use and possession is fundamentally a public health issue, what, if any, role should law enforcement play in trying to address the harms of drug use, including overdose? This panel will explore potential law enforcement reforms that help move the ball away from criminalization and toward public health, including Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), police and prosecutor lowest level enforcement and diversion efforts, and others. Panelists will also examine why a law enforcement framework, even one based in harm reduction, should be questioned and can be problematic.

  • Neill Franklin, Executive Director, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (moderator)
  • Ron Martin, Harm Reduction Policing Consultant, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition; former Detective Sargent
  • Baxter Worth Pashall,Paschal, JD, Assistant District Attorney, Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, North Carolina
  • Jerome Sanchez, Training and Technical Assistance, LEAD Santa Fe
  • Tom Synan, Chief of Police, Newton Police Department, OH

5:15-6:15: Panel 4—Reducing the Role of Criminalization: The Ohio Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment

The Ohio Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment is a ballot initiative that aims to reform Ohio’s criminal justice system and reinvest millions of dollars into drug treatment and community-based recovery programs, which have the potential to reduce drug-related harms, including overdose. But, what is needed to leverage this criminal justice reform into broader support for a public health and social safety infrastructure that can best support people who use drugs? Panelists will discuss how government entities and interested stakeholders can plan for the ballot’s possible passing as well as the potential pitfalls of this initiative and how to best ensure effective implementation in both the criminal justice reform and public health realms.

  • Jocelyn Rosnick., JD, Acting Policy Director, ACLU of Ohio (moderator)
  • Douglas Berman, JD, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, Moritz College of Law; Director, The Ohio State University Drug Enforcement and Policy Center
  • Shakyra Diaz, Managing Director, Crime Survivors for Safety, Alliance for Safety and Justice
  • Stephen Johnson Grove, JD, Deputy Director for Policy, Ohio Justice & Policy Center

6:15: Closing

  • Douglas Berman, JD, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, Moritz College of Law; Director, The Ohio State University Drug Enforcement and Policy Center

6:30-7:30: Networking Reception


8:30-9:00: Light Breakfast and Registration

9:00-9:15: Welcome and Framing

  • Dennis Cauchon, President, Harm Reduction Ohio

9:15-9:30: Speaker 3—Emerging Research: Ohio Drug Markets and Related Overdoses

Dan Rosenblum will present new data from Ohio’s state crime labs that sheds light on the recent rapid change in the illicit opioid market and how this relates to trends in opioid overdose deaths in Ohio.

  • Dan Rosenblum, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Dalhousie University

9:30-9:45: Speaker 4—Overdose in Ohio: Social Consequences

Rick Hodges will provide an overview of the social consequences of the overdose crisis in Ohio.

  • Rick Hodges, MPA, Executive in Residence and Visiting Professor, Ohio University; Director, Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health

9:45-10:00: Speaker 5—Race and the Overdose Crisis

Kassandra Frederique will discuss the racial dynamics of the overdose crisis and explore how the perception of those most affected by the crisis has engendered a different rhetorical response.

  • Kassandra Frederique, MSW, New York State Director, Drug Policy Alliance

10:00-10:15: Speaker 6—Harm Reduction: A Philosophy

Harm reduction often refers to a set of practical strategies aimed at reducing the negative consequences associated with drug use. But, Daniel Raymond will take us beyond those particular strategies and examine the values underlying harm reduction and the broader social justice movement to respect and protect the rights of people who use drugs.

  • Daniel Raymond, Policy Director, Harm Reduction Coalition

10:15-11:15: Panel 5—Nothing About Us Without Us: What Do Impacted People Want and Need

Drug policy reform must be informed by the knowledge of those directly impacted, but far too often people who use drugs are silenced or discredited. In envisioning a public health framework for addressing drug use, this panel will center, value, and take direction from the voices, needs, and experiences of those most harmed, including drug users and their families.

  • Taylor Bennett, Director of Advocacy, Harm Reduction Ohio (moderator)
  • Laura Cash, Board Member, Harm Reduction Ohio
  • Terrell Jones, Community Leader, VOCAL-NY
  • Dylan Stanley,

11:15-11:30: Break

11:30-1:00: Panel 6—Not All Treatment is Created Equal: The Case for Methadone and Buprenorphine

A robust community treatment infrastructure must be a central component to a public health approach to addiction and overdose, but most current treatment options are not evidence-based. Moreover, the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder is also the most stigmatized and misunderstood—opioid agonist treatment (OAT) with the medications methadone and buprenorphine. This panel will highlight the evidence in support of OAT compared to other treatments, identify barriers to access, explore innovative service delivery models, and evaluate OAT’s efficacy as an overdose prevention tool. The panel will also examine the emergence and embrace of the medication Vivitrol in contrast to methadone and buprenorphine., and the importance of access to all approved treatment medications..

  • Lipi Roy, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor, NYU School of Medicine; former Chief of Addiction Medicine, Rikers Island (moderator)
  • John Brooklyn, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Psychiatry, University of Vermont College of Medicine
  • Richard Massatti, PhD, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
  • Josiah Rich, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Professor of Epidemiology, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University; Co-Director, Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights
  • Shawn Ryan, MD, President and Chief Medical Officer, BrightView; Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Cincinnati

1:00-1:30: Lunch

1:30-3:00: Panel Presentation 7—The Science Says So: Effectiveness of Harm Reduction Interventions

Given the potential harms associated with the use of opioids and other drugs, services to reduce health risks are paramount to ensuring the safety of those who use them. On this panel, expert researchers and service providers will explore harm reduction strategies in the US and abroad and their proven efficacy with regard to decreasing overdose deaths, including access to naloxone, syringe exchange, drug checking, and supervised consumption. Panelists will also review best practices and cutting edge on-the-ground strategies.

  • Melissa Green, Harm Reduction Program Manager, Alcohol & Drug Services, Columbus Public Health (moderator)
  • Alice Bell, MSW, Overdose Prevention Project Coordinator, Prevention Point Pittsburgh
  • Liz Evans, Executive Director, New York Harm Reduction Educators
  • Traci Green, PhD, Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine, Boston University; Deputy Director, Boston Medical Center Injury Prevention Center; Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology, Warren Alpert School of Medicine, Brown University
  • Russ Maynard, Community Engagement, Research and Policy, PHS Community Services Society
  • Kiefer Paterson, Government Relations Manager, Harm Reduction Coalition

3:00-4:15: Panel Presentation 8—Beyond the Evidence: How to Sway Hearts and Minds to Embrace Harm Reduction

Despite a robust body of evidence attesting to the effectiveness of a various harm reduction interventions, efforts to bring these interventions to communities is often met with public skepticism or outright opposition. Overcoming these challenges often depends on the ability to manage public opinion by developing well-crafted public relations messages and advocacy campaigns. Researchers, advocates, and others will share their experiences with developing messages that resonate with the public and can help build support for harm reduction efforts.

  • Robert Childs, MPH, Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Consultant (moderator)
  • Tessie Castillo, Advocacy and Communications Consultant, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition
  • Ericka Elion, MA, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. and Candidate for Doctorate in Ministry, New York Theological Seminary
  • Taleed El-Sabawi, JD, Doctoral Candidate, College of Public Health, The Ohio State University
  • Potential additional speaker

4:15-4:30: Break

4:30-4:45: Speaker 7—Beyond Overdose Prevention: Addressing Root Causes of the Overdose Crisis

This speakerRobert Carlson will move us beyond tertiary prevention to a discussion of the social and structural determinants of drug addiction and the underlying causes of the overdose crisis.

  • Robert Carlson, PhD, Professor, Population & Public Health Director, Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research, Wright State University

4:45-6:00: Panel 9—Shoring Up the Social Safety Net: What is Needed?

This panel will address how improvements and advances in social systems like housing, employment, and health care are critical to addressing the overdose crisis and must be incorporated into a robust drug policy response grounded in harm reduction and public health. Panelists will also explore structural inequalities and barriers to access.

  • Ryan McNeil, PhD, Research Scientist, British Columbia Centre on Substance Use; Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia; Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar; Canadian Institutes of Health Research New Investigator
  • Michael Betz, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Sciences, The Ohio State University
  • Nicolas P. Terry, JD, Hall Render Professor of Law & Executive Director, Hall Center for Law and Health, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law; Executive Director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health
  • Abraham Gutman, MA, Opinion Writer, Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Danya Fast, PhD, Research Scientist, BC Centre on Substance Use; Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar

6:00: Thank You and Goodbye

  • Lindsay LaSalle, JD, Director of Public Health Law and Policy, Drug Policy Alliance

Share with friends

Date and Time


Moritz College of Law

55 West 12th Avenue

Saxbe Auditorium

Columbus, OH 43210

View Map

Save This Event

Event Saved