Justice Department, Jail Reach Settlement That Ensures Inmates' Rights To Opioid Medications

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Inmates at an eastern Kentucky jail are guaranteed access to medication for opioid use disorder under a settlement between the U.S. Justice Department and the Big Sandy Regional Jail Authority, U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier announced.

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people in recovery from the disorder and the settlement requires Big Sandy Regional Detention Center to ensure that medically appropriate treatment with any FDA-approved medication is available, Shier said Monday in a statement.

"Access to medications that treat opioid use disorder saves lives, and we are pleased we were able to reach a settlement with the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center to better ensure access to this important treatment for the people in its custody,” Shier said.

The agreement follows an investigation by the Justice Department that stemmed from a complaint by a medical provider on behalf of an inmate. The complaint alleged that the jail refused to provide an inmate with lawfully prescribed buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder.

Big Sandy denied allegations of discrimination, but agreed to cooperate with the federal government and fully comply with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the agreement said. The jail in Paintsville serves Johnson, Lawrence, Magoffin, and Martin counties.

The agreement requires Big Sandy to revise its policies to medically evaluate all individuals for the disorder and to provide access to all three forms of FDA-approved medications. It also requires the jail to ensure that inmates already taking medication will continue on it and those that need it to have access even if they weren't being treated before being incarcerated, the settlement said.