Jails and prisons are legally required to provide medical care to all who come into their custody, but many refuse to provide medication for opioid use disorder, the medical condition commonly referred to as opioid addiction. More than 20% of people incarcerated in Michigan suffer from this condition, which can be safely and effectively treated with FDA-approved medications but can be extremely painful and even deadly if not treated. In October 2021 the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit against the Grand Traverse County on behalf of Cyrus Patson, a young man who battles opioid use disorder and treats it with physician-prescribed Suboxone. Mr. Patson was about to be sentenced to serve time in the county jail, which had a policy of not allowing inmates to take medication for opioid use disorder, and had in fact withheld medication from Mr. Patson during a previous jail sentence, causing him to suffer extremely painful withdraw symptoms and even contemplate suicide. Soon after we filed our lawsuit, Judge Robert Jonker issued an order strongly suggesting that the jail’s policy violated the Eighth Amendment and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act, and encouraging the parties to negotiate. In January 2022 the case settled after the jail agreed to provide Mr. Patson his medication and pay our attorneys’ fees. (Patson v. Grand Traverse County, ACLU Attorneys Syeda Davidson, Phil Mayor, and Dan Korobkin; co-counsel Alexandra Valenti, Amelie Hopkins, and Christine Armellino of Goodwin Procter.)
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