United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

12/11/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/11/2023 12:17

United States Files Statement of Interest to Prevent Discrimination and Ensure Access to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Pennsylvania Jails

Press Release

United States Files Statement of Interest to Prevent Discrimination and Ensure Access to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Pennsylvania Jails

Monday, December 11, 2023
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA - United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced today that the United States Department of Justice has filed a Statement of Interest in federal court to clarify state and local jails' obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide inmates with access to medication to treat opioid use disorder (OUD).

The Justice Department filed its Statement in the matter of Strickland v. Delaware County et al., a private action alleging that a jail denied methadone to an inmate who was taking it for OUD in accordance with a doctor's prescription prior to being incarcerated. The lawsuit alleges that the jail banned methadone to all inmates except those who were pregnant and taking methadone prior to incarceration. As the Justice Department explains in its Statement, the ADA prohibits a jail from categorically denying an incarcerated person access to OUD medications without individually assessing whether such medication is medically necessary to treat their disability.

"My office is dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic with every tool that we have," said U.S. Attorney Romero. "That includes enforcing the ADA to remove discriminatory barriers to treatment for OUD. Today's Statement of Interest reminds jails and prisons about their obligations to address the needs of individuals with OUD and comply with the ADA," said U.S. Attorney Romero.

"Jails and prisons are on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "Individuals with substance use disorders who are in desperate need of treatment pass through these facilities daily. The ADA requires that jails individually assess the medical needs of each these individuals and not categorically deny access to the Food and Drug Administration-approved OUD medications that many may need to effectively treat their disability."

The Justice Department's submission of this Statement furthers its broader efforts to combat discrimination against individuals with OUD and to remove discriminatory barriers to treatment. The United States has entered into settlements with jails and prisons in Pennsylvania and across the country to increase access to OUD medication, including in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Eastern Kentucky, and Massachusetts. It has also brought enforcement actions to combat discrimination against individuals with OUD in court supervision programs in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. And it has issued public guidance on the ADA's protections for those with OUD.

Assistant U.S. Attorney and Deputy Civil Chief for Civil Rights Lauren DeBruicker handled this matter for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with attorneys from the Disability Rights Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

For more information about the Justice Department's work to address discrimination against individuals with opioid use disorder, please visit: https://www.ada.gov/topics/opioid-use-disorder/. For more information on the ADA, please call the Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov. If you believe you have been discriminated against based on disability and wish to file a complaint, please visit www.ada.gov/file-a-complaint/. Anyone in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania may also report civil rights violations to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by calling 215-861-8555 or emailing [email protected].

Updated December 11, 2023
Topic
Disability Rights