June 2023 / by John T. McLandrich.

County jails, and County health districts that supply medical care to jails, and interested others should take note that the U.S. Department of Justice has this issue on its agenda and is championing this issue under the heading of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance at jails and other detention facilities.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking settlements and letters of resolution with such facilities seeking to ensure that such facilities have available for inmates, medications used for addressing Opioid Use Disorder. The DOJ has taken the position that persons who were prescribed such medications prior to their incarceration are entitled to them under the ADA during their incarceration. This treatment regime is also known as medication assisted treatment (MAT).

Medications commonly used in such treatment include methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. Such medications are routinely not administered in every, or almost every, jail I have represented. The DOJ’s position relating to such treatments under the ADA will make a powerful ally for plaintiffs in litigating claims based on a failure to administer such medications. These claims range from suicides, to withdrawal suffering complaints, and to allegations of death related to the failure to administer these medications. In fact, the DOJ, Division of Civil Rights, gives this example in their publication:

Example B – A jail does not allow incoming inmates to continue taking MOUD prescribed before their detention. The jail’s blanket policy prohibiting the use of MOUD would violate the ADA.


Gone are the days when a jail, or its provider of medical services, can rely on the blanket prohibition of narcotic medications in the jail. The provision of these medications will be coming to a jail near you, either voluntarily or as a result of litigation with the DOJ or with a private litigant. I have spoken with doctors who believe the provision of these medications in jail actually make the medical management of inmates with these conditions easier and safer, even for those who were not prescribed them prior to their incarceration, where warranted.

Here are a couple informative links:

Please feel free to reach out to the author for further consultation on this and other civil rights issues for your constituency.


John T. McLandrich, Partner
Phone: (440) 287-8298