U.S. Attorney’s Office Reminds Correctional Facilities of Obligation to Ensure Access to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

For Immediate Release

U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — As part of a comprehensive response to the acute opioid crisis, United States Attorney Carlton S. Shier, IV has forwarded a letter to correctional facilities in the Eastern District of Kentucky, reminding them that refusing to provide required care for persons with opioid use disorder (OUD) can violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office intends to diligently enforce those protections.

The ADA, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, protects individuals with OUD and their access to treatment, including treatment with FDA-approved medication.  The FDA has approved three medications to treat OUD:  buprenorphine (Suboxone), methadone, and vivitrol.  The ADA prohibits correctional facilities from categorically denying incarcerated individuals access to OUD medication, without individually assessing whether such medication is medically necessary to treat their disability.  Policies or practices that likely violate the ADA include not only blanket denials of medication for OUD treatment, but also screening people from treatment based on criteria unrelated to individual medical need.   

“Eastern Kentucky remains at the forefront of a devastating opioid epidemic, and we simply must engage in a comprehensive approach to combatting this community health crisis – including enforcement of requirements safeguarding treatments,” said U.S. Attorney Shier. “Access to medications that treat OUD saves lives and helps us in this fight.  So, we are urging detention facilities to be mindful of their obligations under federal law, offering to work collaboratively with them to ensure these rights, and intending to do our part in enforcing them.”

The reminder letter furthers a broader effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to remove discriminatory barriers to treatment for individuals with OUD.  Since 2022, the office has entered into three settlement agreements resolving allegations of discrimination against individuals with OUD:  with a medical center, a Central Kentucky detention center, and an Eastern Kentucky detention center.  The two agreements with detention centers involved allegations that the facilities failed to provide patients with medication for OUD.

For more information about the Justice Department’s work to address discrimination against individuals with opioid use disorder, please visit www.ada.gov/topics/opioid-use-disorder/.  More information about the ADA is available at the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information line at (800) 514 0301 or (800) 514 0383 (TTY) and on the ADA website at www.ada.gov.

For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-edky/civil-rights.  ADA complaints may be submitted to the U.S. Attorney’s Office by emailing usakye.civilrights@usdoj.gov or by contacting the Office’s Civil Rights Hotline at (859) 685-4880.


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