Justice Department Files New Lawsuit Against Pennsylvania Courts Over Drug Treatment Practices | Don’t miss it

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an amended civil rights lawsuit this week accusing Pennsylvania’s Unified Court System and four county courts, including Northumberland, of denying access to certain drug treatment drugs prescribed by a doctor as a condition of probation or parole.

The lawsuit was refiled after Judge Mitchell Goldberg of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed the Justice Department’s original lawsuit filed in February 2022 for insufficient facts.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division alleges that court officials in Blair, Lackawanna, Jefferson and Northumberland counties discriminated against people on probation and parole because of their disabilities, d addiction, through policies and practices that limit access to or restrict the use of prescribed medications. .

The Unified Court System, which oversees courts in all 67 counties, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, because of its authority over lower courts, are co-accused. The UJS denied the allegations.

The Justice Department alleges that all defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its new, more detailed complaint expands on the original allegations and adds Blair and Lackawanna as specific defendants. Allegations are also brought against the county courts of Allegheny, Butler, Clinton, Delaware and York, but they are not named as individual defendants.

In an April 21 order, Goldberg found that the Unified Court System (UJS) had no authority to interfere with the individual decision-making of a Northumberland County judge since the lawsuit does not allege that the county had a written policy limiting or prohibiting the use of drugs to treat opioid use disorder.

Goldberg allowed the Justice Department to refile the amended complaint, which was submitted May 22 in Eastern District Court.

The story continues below the video

The amended complaint alleges that several treatment court officials, a probation officer and a former administrator of the county’s Drug and Alcohol Program all knew of the court-ordered restrictions on drug treatment, or MAT.

Goldberg said the allegations in the original complaint against Jefferson noted that a local administrative court order restricting drug treatment was overturned in December 2018, nearly four years before the trial. And, the allegations against the other named courts did not identify those harmed by the alleged practices in the respective counties, making the statement of a claim too vague.

The amended complaint says that despite rescinding the policy, the Jefferson County court did not disavow the policy or take steps to ensure that staff were not still following the old directive.

MAT is an evidence-based approach that combines approved medications like buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone with behavioral health counseling and therapy. Commonly used drugs include Suboxone and Vivitrol.

The Justice Department alleges that the Pennsylvania justice system violated the rights of several individuals, including new anonymous individuals named in the amended complaint, by denying equal opportunity to a probation and treatment court. because of their disability through unnecessary and discriminatory criteria on the MAT, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.

The individuals attempted to comply, including some going against medical advice, or risked violating the terms of their court-ordered supervision, which could have resulted in jail time, the ministry says. of Justice. Some started taking the drug again soon after counties were notified of the allegations, but at least one isn’t afraid to violate probation, the lawsuit says.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *