Boston - Leading national and New England-based medical associations joined together to applaud a federal appeals court ruling that a Maine jail must provide a woman with medication assisted treatment (MAT) for her substance use disorder while she serves a 40-day sentence. The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston upheld an earlier ruling from the federal district court in Maine.

Over a dozen leading medical associations asked to file an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit. The appeals court affirmed the lower court ruling without the need for oral argument or further briefing.

Medical experts and addiction specialists from those associations hailed the appeals court decision, calling it an incredibly important step in the fight to end the opioid crisis that will reduce pain and suffering and save lives. Citing this momentum, they called on corrections facilities around the nation to begin providing necessary care to people in their custody who have substance use disorders.

The following quotes can be attributed as noted, and representatives are available to speak with the media.

Barbara L. McAneny, MD, President of the American Medical Association:

“The American Medical Association strongly supports treatment decisions being made between patients and their physician. Patients with the chronic relapsing disease of opioid use disorder deserve comprehensive, medically based care — whether in the community or in a correctional setting. The ruling in Maine is a victory for ensuring patients receive that care.”

Robert Schlager, MD, President of the Maine Medical Association:

“The Maine Medical Association is very pleased with the decisions of both the US District Court and the Court of Appeals. Both Courts recognize the fact that substance use disorder is a major health problem that requires ongoing treatment. Any withholding of necessary treatment from a person involved in the process of recovery is not good for the individual nor does it further the goals of the correctional system. We thank the ACLU for their excellent work on behalf of evidence-based health care in Maine.”

Maryanne C. Bombaugh, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society:

“Persons in Massachusetts with a history of incarceration have a 120 times higher risk of opioid-related overdose death than the general population. To then appreciate the lack of comprehensive treatment in these settings, we knew that we must think broadly and creatively about all options to urge expanded treatment for substance use disorder. We are thankful to all collaborators on this and other related cases to move towards our vision for full-spectrum, low-barrier treatment for all vulnerable populations with substance use disorder, including those in incarcerated settings.”

Paul Earley, MD, DFASAM, President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

“The American Society of Addiction Medicine is thrilled that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction granted by the District Court of Maine to allow an individual to continue to receive medication to treat her opioid use disorder while incarcerated. It is incredibly important to offer all forms of medications for the treatment of addiction to patients in the criminal justice system who are diagnosed with an OUD to improve patient outcomes and reduce overdose deaths.” 

Audrey Kern, MD, FSAM, President of the Northern New England Chapter American Society of Addiction Medicine:

“As we work to end the opioid crisis, now the worst epidemic in US history, we have to acknowledge addiction as a brain disease, not a moral failing, and as worthy of treatment as other medical illnesses. This ruling will go a long way toward ending stigma, and provide care by meeting those in need of treatment where they are, ultimately saving countless lives.”

Michael F. Bierer, MD, MPH, President of the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine:

“Denying necessary care to people with substance use disorders risks pain, suffering, and even fatal overdose. Having experienced the professional and personal heartache of these consequences all too often, we support efforts to assure humane and effective care for people with substance use disorders who become incarcerated. This decision will effect lasting positive changes on our patients' health and lives.”

Joel Goloskie, Senior Counsel, and Meagan Thomson, Associate Counsel, at Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC, who authored the amicus brief on behalf of the medical associations:

“We cannot overstate the contribution of these 13 prestigious institutions, both in the research they’ve provided and the gravitas they’ve brought to this cause. We are honored to have their support.”     

The American Medical Association, American Society for Addiction Medicine, Maine Medical Association, Connecticut Society for Addiction Medicine, Connecticut State Medical Society, Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians, Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine, New Hampshire Medical Society, Northern New England Society for Addiction Medicine, Rhode Island Medical Society, Rhode Island Society for Addiction Medicine, Vermont Medical Society, and several individual experts all filed motions for leave to file an amicus brief in the case.

More about the case, including the appeals court ruling, is here: https://www.aclumaine.org/en/cases/smith-v-aroostook-county

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