A Massachusetts woman diagnosed with opioid use disorder will be provided her prescribed medication for addiction treatment (MAT) while incarcerated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. A final settlement agreement executed today in an ACLU of Massachusetts lawsuit marks a first-of-its-kind victory.
“This resolution affirms one basic principle: People suffering from substance use disorder deserve just treatment,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Medication for addiction treatment is the standard of care for opioid use disorder. The evidence is clear: MAT saves lives. Jails and prisons throughout the country should do all they can to support people in their efforts to overcome opioid use disorder, not obstruct them.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts and Goodwin filed the lawsuit in March 2019, challenging the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ policy of denying MAT to incarcerated people who are diagnosed with opioid use disorder. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Stephanie DiPierro, who has been diagnosed with opioid use disorder and has long been in recovery with the help of doctor-prescribed methadone. After pleading guilty to federal offenses relating to benefits fraud, she now faces imprisonment at a federal Bureau facility, where methadone maintenance treatment is prohibited for all non-pregnant inmates.
The Bureau has now agreed that it will provide DiPierro with access to her prescribed methadone dose throughout the duration of her incarceration. The final settlement agreement executed today marks what the ACLU believes is the first time a non-pregnant inmate will receive methadone maintenance for addiction treatment while in federal Bureau of Prisons custody.
“Securing proper medical care for Ms. DiPierro’s opioid use disorder was critical to preserving her civil liberties,” said Ira Levy, partner at Goodwin. “We are glad that she will now receive the treatment she needs to sustain her recovery.”
This victory builds on ACLU efforts nationwide to increase access to MAT. In November 2018, a federal judge required Essex County correctional authorities to provide a Massachusetts man with continued access to his methadone while he was in their custody. Last month, a federal appeals court in Boston upheld a lower court ruling that the Aroostook County Jail would be required to provide a Maine woman with medication for addiction treatment for her substance use disorder while she was in their custody.