Facts over Fear: What happens when a web of drugs, discrimination and obstacles gets untangled by justice?

Produced By: - February 8, 2024 5:00 pm

Chances are, given the raw numbers, you know someone who has had trouble with opioids. But imagine trying to get better, only to have a court stand in your way.

That’s exactly what happened to six people in Pennsylvania.

All six were all addicted to opioids, all convicted of some crime. And all on probation or in some kind of court-mandated drug treatment program.

And all — get this — were told they couldn’t take prescription medication to treat their opioid addictions, leaving them with an impossible choice: Take their medication and face incarceration or termination from their program, or don’t take their medication and risk relapse, overdose or even death.

The Department of Justice sued on their behalf, claiming they were being discriminated against under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System, which includes the state’s county courts, decided to settle. As part of the settlement, the court system will pay a total of $100,000 to the six people named in the complaint.

It will also train state criminal judges and treatment court staff on requirements regarding opioid use disorder medication.

People suffering with opioid addiction should be given every opportunity to get clean, to heal and to live productive and healthy lives. A criminal conviction or harmful, outdated policies shouldn’t stand in their way.

And that, my friends, is a fact.

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Natalie Bencivenga
Natalie Bencivenga

Natalie Bencivenga is a socially conscious journalist and hosts a weekly show on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Follow her on Instagram at NatalieBencivenga.

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