In Alabama, Reform is the Only Way to Fight the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis in America is still very real. In 2016, an astonishing 65,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. In Alabama, combatting the opioid epidemic has proved a difficult task. There were 343 opioid related deaths in Alabama in 2016, and the state has one of the highest opioid prescribing rates in the country.  In 2015, there were more opioid prescriptionsissued in Alabama than people in the state—5.8 million. 

Two of the state’s Congressional districts rank in the top five nationally for number of opioid prescriptions. Alabama’s 4thCongressional district has the highest prescription rate in the nation; 166 prescriptions per 100 people, more than twice the national average. The 1stCongressional district has the 5thhighest rate. 

Opioid abuse is not just an issue for Alabama. Other districts rounding out the top 5 are Kentucky’s 5thCongressional district, and the 1stand 3rddistricts in Tennessee. Experts believe that the areas where opioid use runs rampant correlate with places where people have felt neglected by the government; many of Trump’s blue-collar supporters who have lost their jobs and opportunities. 

The problem has not been lost on Congress; last month, the House passed a legislative package meant to combat the nationwide opioid crisis. The plan focuses on treatment and recovery, prevention, protecting communities, and fighting fentanyl. In March, Congress passed a funding bill that delegated $4 billion to directly fighting the opioid epidemic, with $130 million set aside specifically for rural communities. 

Federal intervention is helpful, but it’s important that Alabama politicians actively combat the opioid crisis in their own state. As statewide elections loom, candidates’ stances on opioid regulation should be scrutinized. It’s a bipartisan issue; Congress crossed party lines to fight it, and Alabama politicians should work together as well. 

Incumbent governor Kay Ivey expressed her intentin January to work with the Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council to find a solution to the state’s opioid crisis, a team that she herself createdin 2017. However, she has offered very little in terms of a specific plan to keep opioid abuse in check. Ivey is the 3rdmost popular governorin America, with an approval rating of 67%, and will likely prove victorious in November. If Ivey does stay in office, it would be refreshing to see her adopt a clearer strategy to take on the opioid epidemic. 

Ivey’s challenger is Democrat Walt Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa. In April, Maddox unveiled a clear planto combat the opioid crisis. His plan includes expanding Medicaid to address the crisis, creating a cabinet-level official to oversee substance abuse issues, and increasing the availability of treatment and counseling. Regardless of whether Maddox wins the election, aspects of his plan may prove helpful in fighting the opioid epidemic, and Alabama politicians should take notice. 

 The Alabama Attorney General is a co-chairman on the Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council, so the outcome of that election could also prove integral to the battle against opioids. Steve Marshall, the current AG, has emphasized fighting the opioid crisisin his campaign. Marshall’s plan of attack includes establishing better data sharing among multiple agencies so that problem areas are clear.

The opioid epidemic is not the only area of drug policy in which Alabama could improve. Drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth also pose a problem. The Sinaloa drug cartel, active in the U.S. in general, uses Alabama ports to bring in shipments of up to 100 pounds of meth and 50 kilos of cocaine that are then transported north. The cartel has been linked to a number of grisly killings in the state; the point being that the drug trade is active in Alabama and illegal drugs are widely available, and availability links directly to addiction.

An obvious elephant in the room for Alabama and other more conservative states is marijuana. Legalizationof the drug is supported by more than 60% of Americans. The medical benefitsof marijuana are proven; not only can it treat pain, but it can be effective in treating mental illnesses like clinical anxiety and depression. Those against marijuana legalization argue that it is a gateway drug, and that legalizing it would increase not only addiction to marijuana but other drugs, including opioids. 

However, some speculate that loosening marijuana laws could actually help solve the opioid crisis. Marijuana could provide health benefits for people who would otherwise be prescribed opioids, thus lowering Alabama’s opioid prescription rate. The state could also use money from taxation of recreational marijuana to help fight the opioid crisis and improve public education and awareness about drugs. Additionally, less strict marijuana regulations would lessen strain on the courts and the prison system, which is currently operating at 173% capacity. 

At the moment, legalization of recreational marijuana in Alabama is a pipe dream. But, the state has shown some progress in other areas of marijuana law. CBD, a naturally occurring cannabis compound, became legalin Alabama in 2014. Studies show that CBD may help people trying to stay away from prescription medication. The substance has been met with positive feedback so far in Alabama, and medical research shows great promise. 

Alabama penalties for marijuana possession may also soon be reduced. A proposal to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana punishable by a fine instead of jail time cleared its first hurdle in the Alabama legislature in February. Marijuana legislation faces a tough road in Alabama, but it being on the minds of politicians may be a promising sign. 

Alabamians will have to keep an eye on the November elections to see if their results affect drug reform in the state. Issues like the opioid crisis and marijuana regulation will be difficult to tackle, but candidates with hardened resolve could make a difference. 

This article was written by Chris Reid and Katie Pickle. Katie is Reid Law's clerk and is in her third year at Emory School of Law.

Will Medicaid Pay for Your Nursing Home Care?

Most people are familiar with the general concept of Medicaid, but figuring out how much coverage you can get and at what cost can be confusing. Medicaid covers care in state-certified nursing homes when an individual cannot afford any other method of payment. You must be in need of nursing home care to qualify. 

Though you may not believe that you will someday need nursing home care, currently there are 1.4 million people, mostly seniors, served in 16,000 nursing homes across the country. 1 in 3 people over 65 will eventually need nursing home care, the average cost of which is $82,000. 15% of Alabama is currently over the age of 65, and 15,252 of these individuals are nursing home residents with Medicaid, making up 67% of nursing home residents total. In the year 2050, there will be 83.7 million people in the U.S. who are 65 or older, which is twice as many as in 2012.

It's important to consider the possibility that you or a loved one may end up in a nursing home, and to know how to structure your assets so it’s possible to get coverage. Medicaid sets a maximum assets threshold which is very low in most states. In Alabama, you may not have more than $2,000 in countable assets to qualify for Medicaid. There are some exclusions from this threshold, like automobiles and real property, etc. If you exceed the threshold, your excess assets will be put toward paying for nursing home care before Medicaid coverage will kick in.  

You should not have to be forced to use your extra assets to pay for nursing home care. If you can’t afford long-term care insurance, the next best option is to create a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) to protect your assets from being eaten up by nursing home care costs. If you use a MAPT, you can transfer assets out of your estate and qualify for Medicaid sooner. 

MAPTs must be irrevocable trusts, because assets in revocable trusts are countable toward the maximum threshold. The difference is that irrevocable trusts cannot be changed after they are created, and if set up in a particular way the assets are not immediately available to the Medicaid applicant.

An experienced attorney will know how to set up your trust in order to protect your assets. The trust must not benefit you or your spouse; someone else must be named as trustee. It may sound intimidating that irrevocable trusts cannot be changed, but they are actually quite flexible. If you set up a MAPT, you can still receive pension and social security costs directly and maintain the right to use and occupy your home. The trust can freely sell and trade assets through the trustee, including stocks. You can sell your home, as long as money is paid to trust, and the trust can buy property in its own name and it will be protected. 

Irrevocable trusts are the best way to protect your assets from seizure by Medicaid, but not the only way. It’s also possible to set up different kinds of trusts, like testamentary trusts, or create a life-estate deed, etc. Consulting an attorney will help you determine the best way to get Medicaid coverage and keep your hard-earned savings. 

It might seem like a good idea to try and discretely transfer your assets before applying for Medicaid so that they cannot be countable resources, but this can be risky. When you apply for Medicaid, the agency assesses whether you or your spouse have made any transfers of assets in the past 5 years. This is called the “look-back” period. If you have made any transfers as “gifts,” you will be penalized by Medicaid, and have to pay for a portion of your nursing home care. 

You are ineligible as long as the value of the transferred asset could have paid for nursing home care. In theory, there is no limit to how long you might be declared ineligible, so it’s crucial to be careful when making asset transfers. There are ways to make transfers and not have them red-flagged by Medicaid. You should consult an attorney if you are considering any asset transfers. 

At the Reid Law Firm, we are well-versed in the Alabama trust formation and regulation process. Trustees should have their trusts assessed annually. As rates go up and down and new policies are put in place, it is wise to keep a constant eye on how your savings are doing. You want to insure your money is continually handled in the most advantageous fashion, and the staff at Reid Law Firm can help.

 

What Are Your Options in a Personal Injury Case?

Personal injury law encompasses a wide range of accidents. Some of the most common personal injury cases involve car accidents, workplace mishaps, and injuries in public places or private businesses. An unexpected accident can take a huge toll on everyone involved and may cause the victim and his family physical and emotional pain. Medical bills can start to add up, auto repair is costly, and insurance companies may try to take advantage of a victim who is hurt and desperate. 

One legal option to help alleviate financial stress is to sue for damages. However, in Alabama, fighting a successful suit can be difficult. Alabama is one of four states that follows a “Pure Contributory Negligence” standard. 

Under this standard, a person who is injured cannot recover damages if they are at all at fault. This means that even if an accident is 99% the injurer’s fault, as a victim you still cannot recover because you are 1% at fault. This may seem unfair, because the injurer is almost completely responsible for the accident but can get off scot-free. Regardless of how much physical and monetary damage you are suffering, you will get no help. 

Because this rule is so harsh, if you are in an accident in Alabama it is extremely important to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will know how to best argue the facts of your case to ensure you do not fall victim to the Pure Contributory Negligence standard. 

The administrative process that follows an accident is lengthy and time-consuming, so an attorney’s advice is invaluable. After an accident occurs, it must be reported to the Alabama Department of Safety (DPS). You should document the scene of the accident the best you can and as soon as possible. This includes description of the accident, witnesses, and all parties involved. This description should use specific terms and emphasize certain points to strengthen your case. You also must have an understanding of the local laws and knowledge of the insurance consequences. 

Following these steps may seem overwhelming, especially when you are dealing with insurance costs and injuries. Hiring an attorney can help alleviate this stress and will help guide you through the process. You can focus on your recovery, while your attorney fights for your rights. 

Here at Reid Law Firm, we hope the aforementioned scenario never happens to you, but if you find yourself in a heartbreaking situation, the staff at Reid Law Firm can help. Though it will not completely take away the pain you and your family have experienced, it is the best way to ensure that you get the help you need and get on the fastest road to recovery.

Looking to Apply for a Pretrial Diversion Program? Here's Everything You Need to Know!

If you’re a first-time, non-violent offender, it may be possible for you to get a second chance at a clean record. Many jurisdictions across Alabama offer pretrial diversion programs for those facing their first non-violent felony charge, or who have a “light” criminal record. If you qualify, you can apply for the program, and upon completion, the charges against you will be dropped. 

Pre-trial diversion programs vary across the state, but in general you must plead guilty to your crime in order to participate. This way, the state has leverage against you if you fail to complete the program. In jurisdictions where you must plead guilty, you waive your right to trial. Your plea is initially set aside, but if you fail to complete the program, the judge will enter your plea and you will automatically be convicted. In other jurisdictions, you must make a full confession in order to apply for the program. If you fail to complete the program in these jurisdictions, your case will go to trial, and the prosecutor can use this confession against you.

The purpose of these programs is to give criminals who show remorse a path to recovery. Committing a crime does not make someone a career criminal. Often times, people make mistakes and understand they should have made a different decision, and these people should not have to deal with the lifelong consequences of having a felony on their record. 

There are several types of crime-specific pre-trial diversion programs. If you have a history of mental illness or behavioral issues, you may have your case handled in mental health court and be eligible for mental health counseling. Many jurisdictions have veterans programs to help those who may be suffering as a result of their sacrifice to our country. There are also programs for domestic violence, theft counseling, gun crime diversion, nonviolent sexual diversion (ie. statutory rape), and DUI diversion. 

Pre-trial diversion programs do have catches, however. To fulfill the requirements of many programs, you must pay a monthly fee. Programs typically last at least 2 years. In Jefferson County, you must complete a 2-year offense specific treatment, undergo random drug testing, and perform 48 hours of community service. Not everyone is eligible for pre-trial diversion programs, for example if you hold a commercial driver’s license and have been convicted of a traffic offense. It’s important to remember that your sentencing has not been cancelled, just postponed. If you slip up at any time during the program, you could still go to prison. 

If you are considering applying for pre-trial diversion, it is essential to hire a lawyer. Whether these programs are granted often depends on how well your attorney can negotiate with the judge. Specific facts of your case might be important to emphasize, and even if there isn’t a program specific to the type of crime you committed, an experienced attorney may still be able to get you into a program. It is also possible to have monthly fees waived if you have low income, or to pay the fees in smaller installments over time. Hiring a lawyer may be invaluable to ensure that you comply with all the requirements and get your charges dropped. If for some reason you cannot or do not comply, your attorney still may be able to get your sentence shortened, since it is at the judge’s discretion. 

Reid Law Firm understands that people are not perfect, and that we all make mistakes. If you find yourself in a difficult situation and think you might be eligible for pre-trial diversion, the staff at Reid Law Firm can help.

How Reid Law Firm Fought Government Red Tape to Help a Disabled Veteran

At the beginning of the summer of 2018, the Reid Law Firm was approached by our friend Kyle Nuss. Kyle is a disabled veteran fighting cystic fibrosis who had recently discovered that the Social Security Administration mistakenly declared him dead instead of his father, Gregory Nuss, who passed away in May. Due to the devastating error, Kyle was unable to access his bank accounts and technically had no health insurance.

"I wasn't able to use my credit or debit card, so I actually called them and they told me – this was at 10 o'clock at night – that I was deceased,” Nuss said in an interviewwith Alabama’s Fox6 WBRC. “I said, 'Y’all just went off a first-last name basis, y’all didn't check social security numbers or birthday?' She goes, 'Well, that seems to be what happened.' I said, 'Well that's ridiculous.'"

Kyle couldn’t pay a dime for his ongoing treatment at UAB Hospital in Birmingham and would not be able to access the care he would need if he was able to be discharged. His health had deteriorated severely, to the point that doctors would be worried he would be dead within a week if he left the hospital. Family members feared that the stress of the situation could cause a heart attack or stroke. 

With Kyle’s life on the line, the Reid Law Firm sprang into action, putting every able body on the case. Kyle didn’t have time for a prolonged battle with government bureaucrats. He needed help immediately. Our staff began writing articles to be published in major news outlets in order to get the word out about Kyle’s situation. We contacted Congressmen and government officials, and Senator Doug Jones and Congressman Gary Palmer expressed interest in helping with Kyle’s case. After attorney Chris Reid appeared with Kyle on Newsmax TV, a tweetby host John Cardillo caught the attention of the Trump administration. Soon, a White House official reached out to Kyle and assured him that everything had been cleared up with Social Security. Kyle had his life back.

Kyle is still struggling with his debilitating disease but can now focus on recovery. He has become a dear friend of our firm and was a pleasure to get to know and work with.

Unfortunately, Kyle’s case is all too familiar with many veterans and others who find themselves lost in the red tape of mismanaged government agencies. In September of last year, an auditconducted by the SSA unearthed 750 accounts of deceased veterans who still received regular social security payments, resulting in millions of wasted taxpayer dollars. Additionally, 11 percent of veteran recipients were mistakenly reported to be dead when they were actually alive.

The Reid Law Firm is dedicated to fighting back against the bureaucratic red tape and regulations that too often harm upstanding citizens. We know that these cases often take special care and attention – often outside of traditional legal remedies – in order to be resolved quickly and in the best interest of the harmed party. 

If you’ve been harmed by the endless regulations of the federal government, call or text us today at 205-913-7406. Initial consultations are always free, and our caring staff will see that your case is handled in a timely and efficient manner. You can visit www.reidlawalabama.comfor more information on our practice areas and staff.

Everything You Need to Know About DUI in Alabama

Alabama takes DUI offenses very seriously. A person may be charged with a DUI if an officer reasonably believes there is probable cause that the person was in actual physical control of a vehicle while:

·     he has BAC of 0.08% or higher;

·     under the influence of alcohol;

·     under the influence of a controlled substance;

·     under the combined influence of alcohol and a controlled substance, or

·     under the influence of any substance which impairs mental or physical faculties.

Note that the law does not require the person to be driving the vehicle; to be charged with a DUI, a person must only be in physical control of a vehicle. This means you could be charged with a DUI if you are asleep in, or simply sitting in, your car. Notice also that DUI charges are not limited to drunk individuals—you must only be under the influence of something that impairs your ability to mentally or physically function. This could apply to prescription or even over the counter medication.

If you’re charged with a DUI, it’s important to take action before the charge becomes a conviction. If you’re convicted of a DUI, you could face imprisonment of up to a year, a $500-2,000 fine, and a mandatory 90-day license suspension. The penalties increase for each subsequent conviction. 

The help of an experienced attorney is key, because the complexities of Alabama DUI law make it so particular circumstances can change the outcome of your case. It’s helpful to have an attorney who understands which facts of your case to emphasize in order to mitigate the consequences. 

Reid Law Firm understands the struggles our clients face both legally and within their community. We work hard to review all of the facts behind your arrest and assess the likelihood of your conviction. We will never give you false hope. No matter how serious the offense, we will work to help you obtain the best possible outcome to your case.

Don't Let Government Red Tape Put Your Life in Jeopardy!

Government agencies can be a helpful resource but a nightmare to deal with. Getting them to provide information quickly is often like pulling teeth. Federal agencies are riddled with red tape and excessive regulation that hinders action and often puts the lives of American citizens in jeopardy. When dealing with these agencies, it is often helpful to have an experienced attorney on your side who knows the issues and can help you cut through the red tape.

The Reid Law Firm has helped clients with issues related to the Social Security Administration, Medicaid and Medicare, and the Armed Forces. We believe that many of these issues can be solved outside of a courtroom and traditional legal bounds. It often just takes knowing who to call and how to navigate the extensive American bureaucracy. 

However, if you have a substantial case against one of these agencies, Reid Law Firm will stand by you and fight to get the remedy you deserve. American citizens are too often taken advantage of by the far-reaching hands of the expansive federal government. We are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure you receive the compensation and help necessary to get your life back on track.

 

If you’ve suffered at the hands of a federal agency, text or call the Reid Law Firm today at 205-913-7406! We have a highly experienced staff standing by to help you with your case. All initial consultations are free. Together, we can fight back against entangling government red tape!