Agreement allows Big Sandy jail inmates to use medication to battle opioid use disorder

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The federal government has reached an agreement with the Big Sandy Regional Jail Authority, which operates the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center (BSRDC), to ensure inmates with opioid use disorder (OUD) receive medically appropriate treatment with any FDA-approved medication.

United States Attorney Carlton S. Shier, IV, in making the announcement, says such medically approved treatment is required under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which bans 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.

“Eastern Kentucky has long been on the front lines of the opioid epidemic,” Shier said, “and our office remains committed to a comprehensive approach to fighting this public health crisis, including enforcement of the ADA’s requirements safeguarding treatment.  Considering the impact this crisis has had on our area, treatment must be a critical tool in our efforts to fight back.  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.”

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The settlement agreement requires BSRDC to revise its policies to provide access to all three forms of FDA-approved medications to people with OUD and ensure that decisions about treatment are based on an individualized determination by qualified medical personnel.  Specifically, BSRDC 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 facility 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.

In addition, the jail 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 jail also will not use incentives, rewards, or punishments to encourage or discourage individuals at the facility from receiving any OUD medication.

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.