2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Melissa Trent

Melissa Trent

Name of Host Organization: Legal Action Center
City, State: New York, New York
Issue area: Health Care
Sponsors: Friends & Family of Philip M. Stern

The Project

Melissa will conduct a national legal services, outreach, and policy advocacy project to increase the use of life-saving opioid addiction medication for people under court supervision.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Over 2.5 million Americans suffer from opioid addiction with almost 50 people dying from heroin or prescription drug overdoses every day. There are medications that are scientifically proven to treat opiate addiction, yet our criminal justice system often denies people struggling with addiction these effective treatments. When individuals are denied access to medication, the results can be devastating and include overdoses and even death. There are no legal services set up to directly assist individuals being denied access. Through this project, not only will Melissa help individuals, but she will also advocate for large scale policy changes in the criminal justice system, ensuring people have access to the medication they need.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Melissa is the right person for the project because:
• Since college, she has advocated for access to healthcare for people, including students, struggling with addiction, pregnant women, and HIV positive individuals
• During law school, she gained experience with direct client services and policy advocacy while learning how to work with schools, jails and administrative agencies
• She has seen loved ones struggle with addiction and knows on a personal level the challenges and stigma people with addictions face
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Melissa will:
• Conduct outreach to advocacy groups, community addiction support groups, treatment programs, the criminal defense bar, and criminal justice agencies to introduce the project and provide legal assistance to referrals
• Create a toolkit that patients and their advocates can use to persuade courts and other criminal justice entities to permit medication assisted treatment
• Co-counsel or assist attorneys in representing clients facing denial of addiction medication

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