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New York Jail Required to Provide Methadone to Detainee for Addiction Treatment

On September 7, 2021, Judge David Hurd of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York ruled that a detainee should be granted injunctive relief and continue receiving methadone treatment for his opioid addiction while being held on a probation violation at the Jefferson County Jail (JCJ) in Watertown, New York.

The prisoner, identified as P.G., is a 35-year-old delivery-truck driver who became addicted to opioids while attending college in 2005. His addiction contributed to his dropping out of school and ultimately getting arrested for petit larceny and drug possession. From there, P.G. entered a cycle of addiction and recovery as well as committing a series of low-level crimes to support his habit.

In 2018 the Credo Community Center (CCC) opened close to P.G.’s home in Watertown, and there he found he could more readily access treatment for his addiction. His physician there, Daniel Pisaniello, M.D, stated that P.G. specifically required methadone treatment for his disease because substitutes were not effective.

P.G. was once again arrested in 2021 for a probation violation and taken to JCJ.But while there, he was refused methadone treatment for his addiction. He filed a federal suit on April 5, 2021, accusing Sheriff Colleen O’Neill, Undersheriff Brian McDermott and Jail Administrator Mark Wilson of discrimination, noting that they were providing methadone treatment for pregnant females but refused to do so for any of the other addicted detainees or prisoners, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and related state laws.

P.G. moved for an injunction on April 29, 2021, to force the jail to provide him with methadone treatment while his suit was pending. He claimed refusal to provide him methadone would result in excruciating pain, severe mental and physical symptoms, and increased risk of relapse or death.

Judge Hurd heard the case on July 8, 2021, after which he ruled that P.G. had supplied sufficient uncontested evidence that his cause was likely to succeed and granted a preliminary injunction. Affidavits and jail records supported the fact that CCC was providing methadone treatment for pregnant women held in the jail but not to other detainees or prisoners. Although the defendants argued that alternative treatments were available and that jail doctors evaluated and determined appropriate treatment methods, Judge Hurd stated that the current status effectively resulted in a policy of discrimination.

Even under the heightened standards those incarcerated must meet to be granted an injunction, Hurd ruled that P.G. had proven denial of treatment would result in irreparable harm to him, while providing him treatment would not cause undue hardship to the jail or the public. He granted P.G.’s motion and enjoined defendants from denying him methadone treatment while being held. See: P.G. v. Jefferson County., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170593. 

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Related legal case

P.G. v. Jefferson County.