For the last 23 years, attorneys coping with everything from
substance abuse, depression and chronic stress to mental health problems have
turned to the Maryland State Bar Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program
(LAP) for help. This confidential counseling service assists troubled lawyers,
offering guidance and counseling to support them through treatment and recovery.
While many attorneys fully recover, others do not. Some simply cannot afford
the necessary treatment.
To assist lawyers struggling to pay for needed treatment
for substance abuse, mental health disorders, depression, physical disabilities
and other impairments, MSBA and LAP have created a charitable foundation to
provide financial support. Now, through the David N. Bates and Richard B. Vincent
Foundation, Maryland attorneys demonstrating financial need for inpatient and
outpatient treatment for drug and alcohol dependency, gambling and/or debilitating
mental health disorders may be eligible for financial loans to assist with
the cost of treatment.
Unfortunately, there is a small percentage of Maryland attorneys
whose ability to practice law is impaired by alcohol and drug addiction, depression,
gambling, grief or other emotional or physical disabilities. LAP’s network
of support services assists these troubled lawyers. Through assessment, intervention,
counseling, peer support, referral, treatment and rehabilitation support, LAP
serves as a “beacon” offering attorneys a “guiding light” down
the road to recovery.
However, the expense of treatment can be a roadblock to some
attorneys who are suffering serious financial difficulties as a result of their
impairment. “The troubles of many referred attorneys are not sudden;
they develop over the years,” explains Richard B. Vincent, LAP Director. “They
are debilitating to the attorney’s health, family, professional life
and financial stability.” Thus, many lack the resources to pay for treatment
but need immediate help.
LAP does support these attorneys, giving them attention and
help through weekly support group meetings. But it is unable to finance their
treatment; hence, some lawyers have no access to formal, professional treatment
and continue to struggle. To rectify this situation, MSBA’s LAP Committee
recommended the creation of a special foundation to financially assist these
On October 15, 2004, MSBA’s Board of Governors endorsed
the formation of this new Foundation as a corporation organized exclusively
for educational and charitable purposes which will be managed by a Board of
Directors. As approved, the Board will have the authority to determine the
standards for demonstrating financial need and the LAP Committee Chair and
Staff will have the authority to review applications to determine whether the
applicant qualifies for a financial loan.
“This Foundation will give lawyers the immediate attention
and treatment they need,” reports Vincent. “It will fund whatever
kind of treatment the attorney needs and pay the treatment source directly.
There will be a six-month relief period. Then, the attorney will begin to repay
the loan.” The maximum dollar amount for a loan is $7,500, and the applicant
will execute a promissory note for a term not to exceed three years.
“These are honorable people who have come into situations
in life that they are emotionally and/or physically unable to handle,” asserts
Vincent. “There are a number of attorneys out there who need this type
of help, and I think many will apply for help through the Foundation immediately.”
“When an alcoholic or addict expresses a willingness
to change and accept help, a small window of opportunity opens,” adds
Mark Jensen, a member of MSBA’s LAP Committee who spearheaded the effort
to create the Foundation. “The Foundation will address the issue of financial
need so the window of opportunity does not close due to lack of funds for treatment.
This need is all the more pressing as insurers retreat from this area.”
The funding base for this Foundation is financial donations,
which are tax-deductible, and all Maryland lawyers are encouraged to donate
to this worthwhile cause. There are many attorneys who have taken advantage
of LAP’s valuable resources over the last 21 years and enjoyed a measure
of success through this lawyer support network. MSBA’s LAP Director hopes
many will be willing to give back and offer donations to support this fledgling