Recently CNN ran a story entitled, “Why are lawyers killing themselves?” The story really struck a nerve and was posted and shared by colleagues and friends on social media and by email. Fortunately, the story also generated a good deal of discussion and interaction. As a follow up to those conversations, I’d like share some of the resources specifically targeted towards, and available for lawyers, judges and their families.

At the national level:

“The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs has the mandate to educate the legal profession concerning alcoholism, chemical dependencies, stress, depression and other emotional health issues, and assist and support all bar associations and lawyer assistance programs in developing and maintaining methods of providing effective solutions for recovery.”

The Commission, referred to as COLAP, serves as a resource for the bench and bar, providing training, research and referrals to the various state entities (In 2007, the Arkansas JLAP program hosted the national COLAP conference).

The Arkansas Supreme Court established the Arkansas Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program in December, 2000:

“There is hereby established a state-wide lawyer assistance program to be known as Arkansas Lawyer Assistance Program (or “ALAP”) which shall provide immediate and continuing help to lawyers and judges (hereinafter “members of the legal profession”) who suffer from physical or mental disabilities that result from disease, substance abuse, disorder, trauma, or age and that impair their ability to practice or serve.

“B. Purpose. ALAP has three purposes:

(1) to protect the interests of clients, litigants, and the general public from harm caused by impaired lawyers or judges;

(2) to assist impaired members of the legal profession to begin and continue recovery; and

(3) to educate the bench and bar to the causes of and remedies for impairments affecting members of the legal profession.”

Participation in the JLAP program is confidential per Rule 10, and the program is available to Arkansas’ judges, lawyers, and their family members. In addition, the Arkansas Supreme Court extended the scope of the program to permanently include law students within the coverage of the program. Of particular relevance to the above cited CNN story, Arkansas JLAP has been conducting volunteer trainings this year on the specific topic of suicide awareness and prevention. Washington County colleagues, there will be a JLAP presentation on March 4th at the Washington County Bar meeting. I hope to see you there. For more information on the JLAP program or trainings in your area, please contact Arkansas JLAP at: 501.907.2529 or Confidential@arjlap.org.

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