Federal Court Will Hear Challenge to Ban on Medication Assisted Treatment in Maine Jails

Trial Begins TODAY Monday, Feb. 11 in U.S. District Court

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
February 11, 2019 9:15 am

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Portland – The ACLU of Maine will be in court beginning today to argue that a ban on Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) in Aroostook County Jail is unlawful and harmful.

“If our client is forced to stop taking her doctor-prescribed medication in jail, she will most surely experience the excruciating pain of withdrawal, and she is more likely to relapse upon release,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director for the ACLU of Maine. “Most incarcerated people will eventually re-enter the public. It is in everyone’s best interest to help them succeed.”

Despite the medical consensus that MAT is safe and effective in combating substance use disorder, most Maine jails have policies explicitly prohibiting this treatment for incarcerated people. The Maine Department of Corrections had a similar ban until it was lifted by an Executive Order from Gov. Mills on February 6, 2019.

Lawyers from Andrew Schmidt Law PLLC originally filed suit in September 2018 on behalf of Brenda Smith of Madawaska. Smith uses physician-prescribed medication to keep her opioid use disorder in remission. She seeks to continue taking her medication upon admission to the Aroostook County Jail, in order to continue to treat her opioid use disorder, as well as to prevent painful withdrawal symptoms and an increased chance of relapse and overdose upon release.

The lawsuit argues that, by denying adequate medical care to people in state custody, this policy violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects people with substance use disorders who are in treatment.

Along with Andrew Schmidt and Peter Mancuso from Andrew Schmidt Law PLLC, Smith is represented by lawyers from the ACLU of Maine and David Soley and Jim Monteleone from Bernstein Shur. The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. It names Aroostook County and Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn Gillen (in his official capacity) as defendants.

More information about the case is here: https://www.aclumaine.org/en/cases/smith-v-aroostook-county

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