City Club of Chicago: The Opioid Epidemic

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Dr. Steven Aks is one of the foremost experts int eh field of medical toxicology and has overseen the training of more than 1,000 residents and 500 students in CCHHS’ medical toxicology rotation since 1990.

Dr. Aks directs the Toxikon Consortium, a partnership between CCHHS, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Illinois Poison Center. Toxicon offers one of the nation’s few toxicology fellowships and trains all emergency medicine residents in the City of Chicago in toxicology. Toxikon also supports the Illinois Poison Center with additional clinical expertise on the most challenging cases of poisoning.

Dr. Aks’ areas of clinical interest include street drug trends, addiction prevention in vulnerable populations, and acute care toxicology.

Hon. Patrick Kennedy

The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the nation’s leading political voice on mental illness, addiction, and other brain diseases. During his 16-year career representing Rhode Island in Congress, he fought a national battle to end medical and societal discrimination against these illnesses, highlighted by his lead sponsorship of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008–and his brave openness about his own health challenges.

The son of Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, he decided to leave Congress not long after his father’s death to devote his career to advocacy for brain diseases and to create a new, healthier life and start a family. He has since founded the Kennedy Forum, which unites the community of mental health, and co-founded One Mind for Research, a global leader in open science collaboration in brain research. Kennedy is also the co-author of “A Common Struggle,” which outlines a bold plan for the future of mental health and addiction in America.

Kennedy lives in New Jersey with his wife, Amy, and their four children.

Hon. Toni Preckwinkle

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has been a dedicated community leader for over two decades. She has worked with the Cook County Board of Commissioners, elected officials and County employees to implement major reform and reshape County government through fiscal responsibility, innovative leadership, transparency and accountability, and improved services

Since taking office in December 2010, President Preckwinkle has rebuilt the credibility of County government, solving for more than $1.8 billion in budget deficits and cutting $657 million in expenditures. She established the County’s first performance management initiative to demand more accountability from County operations and employees.

President Preckwinkle has developed a broad policy agenda – focusing on critical public safety reform, working to strengthen the County’s health care system, and increasing the capacity and capability of our economic development efforts.

President Preckwinkle is also president of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, a separate governmental body. The FPCC is one of the oldest and largest forest preserve districts in the country spanning 69,000 acres, which makes up 11% of the County footprint.

Before being elected Cook County Board President, Preckwinkle served 19 years as Alderman of the 4th Ward. During her tenure she worked to improve our local public schools and increase the amount of affordable housing sponsoring two Living Wage and Affordable Housing ordinances. Her independent and progressive leadership earned her the IVI-IPO Best Alderman Award six times as well as two Leon Despres Awards.

Prior to holding elected office, President Preckwinkle taught high school history for 10 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from the University of Chicago. She is the mother of two and the grandmother of three.

Jay Edelson

Jay Edelson is the Founder and CEO of Edelson PC, a Chicago-based consumer protection firm recently named by Law360 as one of only five “Illinois Powerhouse” law firms. He is considered one of the nation’s leading class and mass action lawyers, having secured over $1 billion in settlements and verdicts for his clients. Law360 has described Jay as a “Titan of the Plaintiff’s Bar.”

Jay has been recognized by the American Bar Association for being one of the “most creative minds in the legal industry” and has “taken on some of the biggest companies and law firms in the world, and has had success where others have not.” He has also been called of the most “feared” litigators in Silicon Valley and, according to a New York Times profile, his success in the privacy space has made him Tech’s “least friended” man. Put simply, according to Chicago Lawyer Magazine, “when it comes to legal strategy and execution, Edelson is simply one of the best in the country.”

Commentators have singled out Jay’s willingness to tackle problems other lawyers shy away from and his creativity in finding winning strategies. He has successfully litigated cases of first impression against the national banks in the wake of the housing collapse, leading to the reinstatement of over $3 billion in home credit lines. Through his privacy cases, he has “fostered a reputation for his uncanny ability to come up with creative standing and damages arguments” leading to “momentum-shifting rulings in challenges to the data security and information-gathering practices of companies.”

Jay has been chosen by courts and other institutions to handle some of the most complex and significant issues facing the nation today. He is leading the student-athlete concussion multi-district litigation against the NCAA, considered to be “one of the largest actions pending in the country.” He is also representing labor unions and governmental entities in lawsuits against the drug manufacturers and distributors responsible for the opioid epidemic, and is representing victims of Hurricane Harvey against the United States. His victory in the United States Supreme Court in Robins v. Spokeo has been called the most significant consumer privacy case in recent times.

Jay is a frequent speaker and writer on class and mass action issues, the practice of law more generally, and training and law firm management. In recognition of the fact that his firm runs like a start-up that “just happens to be a law firm,” Jay was recently named to “Chicago’s Top Ten Startup Founders over 40” by He has taught class actions and negotiations at Chicago-Kent College of Law and privacy litigation at UC Berkeley School of Law. He has written a blog for Thomson Reuters, called Pardon the Disruption, where he focused on ideas necessary to reform and reinvent the legal industry.