This Jail Won’t Provide Drug Addicts With Essential Meds

New York Civil Liberties Union filed an application class action lawsuitJefferson County Correctional Facility has been criticized this month for not allowing inmates to access opioid treatment. 

The complaint alleges that Jefferson County Correctional Facility banned medications, like methadone and buprenorphine, to treat opioid addiction—a chronic lifelong disorder after repeated opioid use that includes relapses, disability, and death. 

This lawsuit is coming as methadone, a medication that can be used in correctional settings, remains hotly debated. Of the nation’s 3,100 municipal and county jails, only 120 offer methadone or buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction. However, the few that do provide such medications have shown some remarkable results..After the state implemented policies that treat opioid addicts using buprenorphine and methadone, Rhode Island’s Department of Corrections saw a 12 per cent decrease in deaths from overdoses.

A plaintiff in the NYCLU suit, known as T.G.It was saidPrior to her incarceration she tried to get help for her addiction Without medication, it was futile and she would relapse often. T.G. was able to refer her to a doctor, who gave her methadone. She credits her doctor with saving her life, and she says that consistent usage stopped her craving for drugs. 

T.G.T.G. She testified that the Jefferson County Correctional Facility experience was very painful. The nurse informed her that it was not necessary to file grievances, and that methadone could not be provided in the jail. T.G. said, “Without methadone I instantly started to experience withdrawal.” She was unable to swallow and felt extreme pain.

The other plaintiff is referred as M.C.M.C. said methadone had been a game changer in his treatment of opioid addiction. He claims it keeps him away from relapsing. M.C. His testimony states that M.C. was released from prison twice before he resorted to opioids because of the severe withdrawal. “But twice since I started receiving methadone, my treatment was disrupted by incarceration…the withdrawal I went through was awful beyond imagination—much, much worse than even withdrawing from heroin,” he said. 

Richard Rosenthal, an addiction specialist and expert witness, stated that people who have suffered from withdrawal are 7 times less likely than those in the same prison to resume their treatment. Rosenthal points out that withdrawal reduces the tolerance of drug addicts, which increases their risk for overdose. 

NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Antony GemmellSend us your stories Reason Although the U.S. District Court in New York granted the same lawsuit, it did little to resolve the matter. This is the district court did recognizeThe risk of dying from opioid addiction can be increased by withholding the medication. The good news is that there are other options. The county jail provided only medication for the opioid abuse disorderFor the plaintiff in this particular case, P.G. was listed rather than for all the inmates with the same condition. 

Our goal in filing P.G.’s case was the jail would see the writing on the wall and reform itself…[it]Gemmell said that Gemmell did the exact opposite.