Sheriff okay with judge’s ruling on inmate getting methadone treatment

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 11:01 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A federal court ruled this week that an inmate has the right to methadone treatments while incarcerated in the Jefferson County Jail.

County Sheriff Colleen O’Neill says she’s okay with that because her department has no policy that bans methadone treatment. Methadone is given to people who have an opioid addiction.

The 35-year-old inmate, identified only as P.G. in court papers, was represented by the American and New York Civil Liberties Unions. P.G.’s lawyer claimed the Jefferson County Jail has a ban on methadone for almost anyone, and that ban discriminates against inmate P.G.

Sheriff O’Neill says that’s inaccurate because the jail has no policy prohibiting treatment and, in fact, methadone has been provided to inmates in the past.

So, why the dust-up with P.G.? O’Neill explains the lawsuit was filed before P.G. became an inmate at the Jefferson County Jail.

P.G. was just arrested last Friday and, before P.G. became an inmate, O’Neill says she wasn’t going to commit to methadone treatments for someone who hasn’t been examined by her jail medical team.

Once P.G. was jailed and a doctor assessed P.G.’s medical records, he was cleared for methadone.

Sheriff O’Neill says the inmate started getting methadone treatments right away and hasn’t missed a single treatment since he was jailed - not even on Labor Day.

“The jail is never going to deny appropriate medical treatments to an inmate. Never have, never will,” said Sheriff O’Neill.

Meanwhile, the Civil Liberties Unions point out a judge ruled in their favor. The judge’s decision says, “For now, the actual evidence in the record establishes that the County does not provide methadone to non-pregnant people. Under these circumstances, a refusal to guarantee access to methadone treatment likely violates the ADA.”

Read the judge’s full decision here.

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