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Opioid Epidemic 2020: Representing the Pro Bono Client


Speaker(s): Ellen Lawton, Jonathan Giftos, M.D., Mallory Curran, Rachel Simons, Rakuya Trice, Sally Friedman, Stefanie K. Davis
Recorded on: May. 11, 2020
PLI Program #: 295922

Dr. Jonathan Giftos is the Medical Director of Addiction Medicine & Drug User Health at Project Renewal, a non-profit organization that provides health, housing and jobs to people experiencing homelessness. In this role, Dr. Giftos oversees the clinical care for people who use drugs and/or struggle with addiction at Project Renewal's OASAS-licensed programs, which include a medically supervised withdrawal/stabilization unit, as well as outpatient and residential treatment programs, while also providing clinical support to the primary care doctors and psychiatrists in Project Renewal's Article 28 clinics and mobile medical van. He also provides clinical care at Project Renewal's Support & Connection Center in East Harlem, as well as at their 3rd Street Medical Clinic in the East Village.

Dr. Giftos's work is broadly focused on improving health care delivery for people who use drugs. This work includes improving care "accessibility" and "acceptability" for people who use drugs, including enhancing low-threshold treatment options; defining and developing a continuum of care that reflects the fluctuating nature of many patient's drug use and recovery; reducing barriers to methadone and buprenorphine for justice-involved patients; and partnering with impacted communities to identify challenges, set priorities and develop strategic plans for meaningful systems change.

Previously, Dr. Giftos served as the Clinical Director of Substance Use Treatment for NYC Health + Hospitals, Division of Correctional Health Services at Rikers Island, where he oversaw diversion, harm reduction, treatment and reentry services for incarcerated patients with substance use disorders. In this role, he also served as the medical director of the Key Extended Entry Program (KEEP), the nation's oldest and largest jail-based opioid treatment program that provides methadone and buprenorphine to incarcerated patients with opioid use disorders. Dr. Giftos's most important accomplishment while at CHS was leading the effort to remove non-clinical barriers to OTP enrollment in 2017, which dramatically expanded treatment access from 25% to over 80%, while also reducing post-release mortality for people with opioid use disorder.

Dr. Giftos has worked locally and nationally to advocate for expanded access to methadone and buprenorphine for incarcerated patients, and he has partnered with the ACLU and Physicians for Human Rights to advocate for evidence-based treatment for patients with cases before drug courts. In 2016 he partnered with VOCAL-NY and SIF-NYC to organize healthcare workers in support of Safe Consumption Spaces (SCSs) and continues to partner with community based organizations to advocate for humane drug policy. 

Dr. Giftos completed medical school at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 2012. He then completed residency and chief residency in the Primary Care & Social Internal Medicine Residency Program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. In 2016 he became credentialed as an HIV specialist through the American Academy of HIV Medicine. He is board certified in internal medicine (ABIM 2015) and addiction medicine (ABPM 2020).


Ellen Lawton, JD is a Principal Investigator and Lead Research Scientist at the George Washington University where she co-leads the University’s National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

An expert in poverty law generally, Ms. Lawton is a lead editor of the 2011 textbook, Poverty, Health & Law: Readings from Medical-Legal Partnership. Ms. Lawton is internationally recognized for her leadership in developing the medical-legal partnership approach, and has published an array of articles describing this work in both clinical and legal journals.

Ms. Lawton received the 2011 Innovations in Legal Services Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, is chair of the board of directors at Health Imperatives and is a member of the board of directors of Community Resources for Justice. She also serves on the national advisory committee for the Primary Care Leadership Program.


Mallory Curran is a consultant who works with legal and health care non-profits across the country on a broad range of activities involving medical-legal partnership, legal services, and technology. She has served as a Senior Advisor to the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership and as a Special Advisor to the Immigration Advocates Network. For thirteen years, Mallory was a civil legal services attorney and supervisor in Cleveland and New York City. Mallory graduated from The Ohio State University and received her law degree from New York University School of Law.


Rachel Simons oversees Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s Newburgh and Monticello offices, coordinates the Veterans Unit for the agency, and serves on LSHV’s Diversity and Inclusion Council. Prior to being appointed Attorney-In-Charge, Rachel was a staff attorney at LSHV and provided representation to clients in the areas of housing law, elder law and disability advocacy. From 2005 to 2013 Rachel was employed for the City of New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development in their Housing Litigation Division, where she enforced the Housing Maintenance Code and Multiple Dwelling Law against private landlords in Kings County, and in the Division of Tenant Resources, where she assisted in all aspects of the administration of HPD’s Section 8 Program. Rachel has held internships with Amnesty International USA’s Research Department, and the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, and was a Law Fellow at Urban Justice Center’s Peter Cicchino Youth Project and Harm Reduction Project.

Rachel received her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, where she was an Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellow, and has a dual degree in Political Science and American Cultural Studies from Bates College. She is admitted to practice law in New York and Connecticut. Rachel served on the Board of Directors of the Newburgh Ministry from 2016-2018, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Orange County Rural Development Advisory Corporation and the Beacon Hebrew Alliance. In 2018, Rachel was presented with the Orange County Human Rights Commission Human Rights Award.


Rakuya K. Trice is the Deputy Director and Director of Medical-Legal Partnerships of Indiana Legal Services, Inc., a state-wide, not-for-profit law firm and Indiana’s largest provider of free civil legal assistance. Rakuya oversees the day-to-day operations of Indiana Legal Services’s regional offices and its medical-legal partnerships. Prior to her current role, Rakuya was Directing Attorney of the Indianapolis Regional Office’s medical-legal partnership team and operated a medical-legal partnership project with a regional health system. Rakuya was admitted to practice in Indiana in 2002 and is a graduate of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.


Sally Friedman is the Vice President of Legal Advocacy at the Legal Action Center (LAC), a non-profit law and policy organization that fights discrimination against individuals with criminal justice histories, substance use disorders, and HIV/AIDS. Ms. Friedman plays a key role in the Center’s strategic planning, fundraising, and program development and directs its Legal Department, which engages in impact litigation, direct legal services, technical assistance, and training.  At LAC, Ms. Friedman has litigated numerous precedent-setting cases, including Beckett v. Aetna, a national class action lawsuit challenging Aetna’s violation of over 13,000 members’ HIV privacy rights, and Innovative Health Systems v. City of White Plains, a federal lawsuit establishing that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits using zoning laws to exclude facilities serving people with disabilities.  Ms. Friedman has worked extensively to reduce barriers to medications for opioid use disorder and is considered a national expert on the topic.  She authored the 2011 report, Legality of Denying Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in the Criminal Justice System, co-authored the 2015 report, Medication-Assisted Treatment in Drug Courts: Recommended Strategies, and authored Defense Lawyers and the Opioid Epidemic: Advocating for Addiction Medication. Ms. Friedman has conducted dozens of trainings nationwide and written extensively on anti-discrimination and privacy laws. Prior to joining the Legal Action Center, Ms. Friedman worked as a litigation associate at the New York law firm of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis, and Frankel.  She graduated cum laude from New York University School of Law and phi beta kappa from Brown University. 


Stefanie Davis is a Senior Assistant General Counsel in the Office of Legal Affairs at the Legal Services Corporation. At LSC, she writes regulations in plain English, gives clear and concise legal advice, talks to anyone who’s interested about LSC’s regulations, and manages LSC’s Veterans Task Force. She joined LSC in 2013 after nearly ten years advising human services programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, two years teaching English in Iwate, Japan, and one week learning to sail the schooner Mary Day off the coast of Maine. She began her legal career representing people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless in Washington, DC. She is a 2002 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology magna cum laude from the University of New Mexico.