Justice Department Informs City of Lexington and Lexington Police Department That Automatically Jailing People for Unpaid Fines Violates Constitution
The Justice Department announced today that Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has agreed to offer treatment with any Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medication for opioid use disorder (OUD) to all individuals booked into the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) for whom such treatment is medically appropriate. Allegheny County will also pay $10,000 to an individual allegedly denied access to methadone in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The ADA prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and protects people in recovery from OUD, including individuals who are taking OUD medication at the direction of a medical provider.
“Too many individuals with opioid use disorder cycle in and out of jails because they can’t find a path to recovery,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement will ensure that Allegheny County Jail provides access to medications that can help break that cycle. These effective, evidence-backed treatments provide viable paths to recovery for those struggling with substance use disorders and help our communities begin to heal.”
“Allegheny County, like so much of the country, has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic,” said U.S. Attorney Eric G. Olshan for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “This agreement ensures that effective OUD treatment will be available to those in Allegheny County who need it most. We appreciate the county’s cooperation in reaching this agreement and look forward to continuing to collaborate in making improvements to ACJ and demonstrating what other jails and prisons must do to address the needs of individuals with opioid use disorder and comply with the ADA.”
Under the three-year agreement, Allegheny County will implement new policies and personnel training programs to ensure that people with OUD who are incarcerated at ACJ receive medically appropriate treatment for their disability. Specifically, Allegheny County will medically evaluate all individuals for OUD at the start of their incarceration. It will ensure that individuals who were receiving OUD medication from a licensed treatment provider before their incarceration are continued on that medication. The county will also offer all individuals with OUD booked into the jail the option to receive treatment with any FDA-approved medically appropriate OUD medication, even if they were not being treated with that medication before their incarceration.
Allegheny County will not change or discontinue an individual’s use of a particular OUD medication unless doing so is based on an individualized determination by a qualified medical provider. The county also will not use incentives, rewards or punishments to encourage or discourage individuals at ACJ from receiving any particular OUD medication.
The Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section handled this matter in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
The Justice Department plays a lead role in combatting the opioid epidemic, including by removing barriers to treatment 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/. For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt. For more information on the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.