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M.C. v. Jefferson County

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of New York against Jefferson County over its discriminatory and life-endangering policy of denying treatment to people with opioid use disorder. 

The lawsuit names plaintiffs M.C. and T.G., representing a class of individuals currently incarcerated at Jefferson County Jail who have already been stripped of their life-saving treatment and are in various stages of withdrawal, as well as an untold number of class members who will enter the jail in the future and be subject to the same arbitrary withholding of treatment. 

For decades, the opioid epidemic has impacted communities across the country. More than half a million people have died of opioid use disorder in 20 years, worsening during the coronavirus pandemic. Opioid addiction took the lives of 2,844 New Yorkers between June 2020 and June 2021, including 759 in the Northern District alone. Today, one person in the United States dies of opioid overdose every seven minutes. 

After granting a TRO and PI to continue M.C.’s treatment, in May 2022, the court issued an order preliminarily blocking the Jefferson County Correctional Facility from denying prescribed treatment for opioid use disorder and certifying the lawsuit to proceed as a class action. This was the first class-wide preliminary injunction in the nation granting access to medication for OUD, such as methadone or buprenorphine, at a jail.   

UPDATE: Under a proposed settlement reached on March 25, 2024, Jefferson County has agreed to a new policy ensuring access to MOUD to any eligible individual within its custody. Individuals entering Jefferson County Jail with a current MOUD prescription must be able to continue their treatment, and individuals without a current prescription will be able to request evaluation for treatment at intake or thereafter. Patients cannot be withdrawn from MOUD unless medically necessary, and discharge planning must be provided to individuals exiting the jail to ensure continuity of care. The NYCLU will receive detailed data on the jail’s compliance with the agreement for three years.  

The court preliminarily approved of the class action settlement on April 24, 2024. A fairness hearing to grant final approval is scheduled for Tuesday, August 27, 2024. A notice of the proposed settlement is here

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