Massachusetts Healthcare Provider Resolves Allegations of Discriminatory Practices Regarding Patients Needing Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and United States Attorney's Office in the District of Massachusetts announced today that they have reached agreement with The Oaks, a skilled nursing facility in Massachusetts operated by Life Care Centers of America, Inc., to resolve allegations that the facility denied admission to a prospective resident because he was taking an FDA-approved medication to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), in violation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The investigation was opened after the U.S. Attorney's Office received information alleging that The Oaks had a practice of denying admission to individuals solely because the individuals were being treated with buprenorphine or methadone, medications used to treat OUD. Many individuals receiving medication to treat OUD have a disability under Federal civil rights laws. The complainant was seeking admission to The Oaks for conditions other than OUD, but also needed the facility to administer medication for OUD, as they would administer medication for any other chronic illness.
Under the terms of the agreement, The Oaks will, among other things, revise its admissions policy, and provide training to admissions personnel on Federal civil rights laws and OUD, to ensure that it will not deny admission to individuals with disabilities because they are taking a medication to treat OUD and will determine whether an individual with OUD is qualified for admission with or without reasonable accommodations. The Oaks will also pay the Department of Justice a civil penalty of $5,000.
"Health care providers should not base decisions about patients with Opioid Use Disorder on stereotypes or misconceptions about their disability. People with OUD do not lose their civil rights because they are prescribed certain medications and OCR is committed to ensuring that people with OUD do not face discrimination in health care settings or other areas of life," said OCR Director Lisa J. Pino.
"Opioid Use Disorder is a recognized disability under the ADA, and providers who fail to treat it as such operate outside the law," said Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. "This settlement is the latest demonstration of our unending commitment to vindicate the rights of disabled people – and it will not be the last."
A copy of the Voluntary Resolution Agreement may be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/compliance-enforcement/agreements/the-oaks-agreement/index.html
For more information about OCR's response to the opioid crisis, please see: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/opioids/index.html
If you believe that you or another person has been discriminated against by an entity covered by Federal civil rights laws, you may file a complaint with OCR: https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints