Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Agrees to Pay $100,000 Over ADA Violations in Opioid Treatment

Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Agrees to Pay $100,000 Over ADA Violations in Opioid Treatment

Justice Department Announces Historic Settlement with Pennsylvania Courts Over ADA Violations in Opioid Treatment

In a significant development, the Justice Department revealed an agreement with the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania (UJS) to address alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The accusations centered around UJS courts preventing individuals under court supervision from taking lawfully prescribed medication for opioid use disorder (OUD).

Terms of the Agreement: $100,000 Compensation and Anti-Discrimination Policies

Under the terms of the agreement, UJS courts will pay $100,000 to victims and undertake comprehensive measures to rectify the alleged ADA violations.

Notably, UJS will encourage all its component courts to adopt new policies and ensure personnel are trained on ADA’s anti-discrimination requirements concerning OUD.

This marks a pivotal step towards promoting inclusivity and supporting individuals with OUD in their pursuit of recovery.

Justice Department’s Commitment to Combat Discrimination

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke emphasized the importance of supporting individuals with opioid use disorder within the criminal justice system.

The agreement mandates that courts, previously restricting opioid treatment medication, now allow individuals with OUD to follow prescribed treatment plans, fostering a path toward recovery and rehabilitation.

Clarke reiterated the commitment to enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the ADA, to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination.

Prosecutors and the Opioid Epidemic Battle

U.S. Attorneys Jacqueline C. Romero and Gerard M. Karam for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania, respectively, highlighted their dedication to combating the opioid epidemic.

Romero stressed the ADA’s role in removing discriminatory barriers to OUD treatment, emphasizing the illegality of denying access to programs and services based on medication prescribed for OUD.

Karam emphasized the importance of ensuring individuals with OUD can pursue medically prescribed treatment to combat the opioid crisis effectively.

Settlement Resolves Lawsuit Against UJS Courts

The settlement agreement brings resolution to the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the UJS, including the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and several County Courts of Common Pleas.

Filed in 2022, the lawsuit alleged that UJS courts, through discriminatory administrative policies, caused significant harm to individuals with OUD.

Those affected faced a challenging choice: take medication and risk incarceration or termination from treatment court programs, or forgo medication, risking withdrawal symptoms and potential relapse or overdose.

Compensation, Training, and Policy Changes

As part of the settlement, UJS courts will compensate victims identified in the complaint and implement crucial changes.

The courts will conduct training for Pennsylvania state court criminal judges and treatment court professionals on ADA and OUD medication.

Selected county courts will adopt robust anti-discrimination policies related to OUD medication, with a recommendation for others to follow suit. Periodic reporting on compliance efforts, including details on access complaints, is mandated during the two-year agreement term.

Justice Department’s Broader Efforts Against OUD Discrimination

The settlement aligns with the Justice Department’s broader efforts to combat discrimination against individuals with OUD.

Public guidance and statements of interest on ADA protections for those with OUD have been issued, along with settlements to increase OUD medication access in various contexts, including jails, prisons, and court supervision programs.

Collaboration and Commitment to Equality

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department collaborated with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania in handling this matter.

The Justice Department, through its Office of International Affairs, worked with the Latvian government to secure the arrest of Klimenka.

The overarching goal is to advance equal opportunity, full participation, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.

Reporting Civil Rights Violations

Members of the public can report possible civil rights violations at civilrights.justice.gov/report, emphasizing the department’s commitment to ensuring equal rights and protections.

For more information on ADA and the Justice Department’s efforts against discrimination related to opioid use disorder, visit ada.gov/topics/opioid-use-disorder/.

The ADA Information Line (800-514-0301, TDD 800-514-0383) is available for inquiries regarding ADA.

Note: An agreement is not an admission of guilt, and all involved entities are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.