The JoAnne A. Epps Fellowship in Drug Policy and Substance Use Treatment has been established to address one of the most urgent issues facing Philadelphia and other urban communities today.
The role, named in honor of Temple University’s acting President and former Law School dean JoAnne A. Epps, will serve as the nexus of a cross-institutional partnership between Temple Law’s Center for Public Health Law Research and Sheller Center for Social Justice and Jefferson University’s Jefferson Addiction and Multidisciplinary Service (JAMS). Evan Anderson, LAW ‘07, has been named the inaugural Fellow. The initial funding is the result of a gift from Sandra and Stephen Sheller HON ’19.
“This Fellowship is a wonderful contribution to the work being done at Temple Law and Jefferson University, both in terms of the collaboration on a complex, urgent problem and the opportunity for students at both schools to work together. It will support our shared efforts to make a significant difference in the lives of people struggling with addiction and its related social harms,” Dean Rachel Rebouché said. “I’m grateful to Steve and Sandy Sheller for their vision, their leadership on this important issue, and their ongoing generosity, and I am grateful to everyone whose creativity and diligence brought the Fellowship into being so quickly.”
The genesis for the Fellowship was an idea that came to the Shellers during a law school presentation in which Anderson, Beth Macy (author of Dopesick and Raising Lazarus), Harold E. Kohn Professor of Law Jonathan Lipson, and attorney Michael Quinn discussed the role of pharmaceutical companies in creating the opioid crisis and the challenges in the frontline efforts at harm reduction. Anderson, a Temple Law graduate and public health law researcher working on drug policy aimed at overdose prevention and harm reduction initiatives, impressed the Shellers with his approach to an issue squarely at the intersection of law, policy, and social justice.
“We already knew from our work with Jefferson that outdated and myopic drug policies did much more harm than good, especially when they created barriers to care and prevented people from accessing what they needed to successfully overcome addiction – medication, treatment, safe housing, and income, for example,” Stephen Sheller said. “So the great work being done at JAMS and through a Bridge Clinic we had created was being undone because our social safety net, by design, was not available to the people we were trying to help. And that was something we needed to try to change.”
“What happened next is a very ‘Temple Law’ sequence of events,” said Scott Burris, Director of the Center for Public Health Law Research (CPHLR). “Senior leadership at CPHLR, the Sheller Center for Social Justice, and the Dean’s office worked together to create a role that brought Stephen and Sandra’s idea to life – someone who could identify the legal and policy barriers to successful implementation of the programs at Jefferson, understand and propose a remedy to the unmet legal needs of people struggling with addiction, and fuel a broader campaign to transform drug policy in Philadelphia and beyond. And it was clear early on that Evan, who has a long history with CPHLR, was the person for the job.”
“This really is a dream job, and I am so excited to be able to do this work,” Anderson said. “Part of what excites me, on top of the actual policy and harm reduction work, is the opportunity to engage students from Temple Law and several programs at Jefferson in it. At law schools in particular, students are often taught that their role as lawyers is to work within existing legal frameworks even when those frameworks are causing their clients harm. But Temple understands that law students and lawyers can also be agents of change within the system itself, and I hope the students who will work on this initiative with me see it as an opportunity to do just that.”
The Shellers also explained why the Fellowship was named for acting President JoAnne A. Epps, who served as Temple Law School dean when the Sheller Center for Social Justice was created in 2013.
“President Epps’ vision for teaching law differently, so that law students saw themselves as participants in the work of social justice right away, was inspiring,” Sandra Sheller said. “She was committed to including the neighborhoods around Temple’s campus in the work of the law school and in the education of its students, and that commitment continues to resonate today. We wanted to honor the many, many gifts President Epps has given to Temple and to Philadelphia with one that could add to her impact in a meaningful way.”
“To say that I’m grateful for Stephen and Sandra’s continued generosity to Temple Law School and honored to be associated with this Fellowship would be an understatement,” Epps said. “But more than that, I have drawn inspiration again and again from their commitment to Temple and our neighbors in the community. North Philadelphia needs partners and champions to help fulfill its historic promise, and this gift from the Shellers demonstrates yet again that they are tremendous allies in this work.”