Lawsuit against Jefferson County for treatment of opioid addiction in prison will become a class action | Jefferson County

WATERTOWN — An ongoing lawsuit to force Jefferson County to treat inmates at its county jail for opioid use disorder will likely become a class action lawsuit.

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit Wednesday in Utica U.S. District Court against County Sheriff Colleen M. O’Neill, Deputy Brian R. McDermott and Mark Wilson, Administrator of the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building.

The suit was filed on behalf of TG, a 31-year-old Watertown resident who has been jailed at the PSB since January 20, and MC, a 29-year-old Croghan man who was sentenced to prison on Wednesday in the county. To research.

Both claim to be addicted to opioids and, according to the complaint, will suffer unnecessary, severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if denied treatment, known as medication for opioid use disorder, MUD. It is argued that the county, in practice, denies inmates MOUD.

The matter is the subject of a separate legal action. In April, NYCLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Watertown resident PG, who also claimed necessary medication was withheld. A federal judge ruled in September that the prison must administer MOUD to PG, but Wednesday’s action alleges that prison officials continued to bar the drugs to all other inmates.

NYCLU’s latest complaint indicates that in addition to TG and MC, at least four additional inmates who are in the same situation as TG and MC have been identified, and countless more people entering the prison at the future will be subject to the same deduction. treatment.

“No prison can deny life-saving medical care to those in its custody,” NYCLU lead attorney Antony Gemmell said in a statement Wednesday. “This is as true for people with opioid use disorder as it is for those living with any other disability. Jefferson County’s blanket ban on the treatment our clients need to survive is cruel, discriminatory, and prioritizes stigma over science. The ban must be lifted now.

The latest lawsuit seeks, among other things, to prevent the county from enforcing its ban on MOUD and to prevent it from halting the treatment of inmates while they are in jail.

A judge will determine whether the case should be certified as a class action.

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