April 6, 2022 – “There’s a ton of discrimination out there, including in the medical system,” said Joshua Sharfstein, Johns Hopkins University’s vice dean for public health practice and community engagement. 

Bias against medication use is particularly pronounced, causing complications for those seeking treatment for opioid use disorder.

“Discrimination against people taking effective medications for their addiction to opioids is all too common,” Sharfstein said. “Bias reduces use of medications and leads to more overdoses and more deaths.” 

As noted in a DOJ release, the department recently leveraged the ADA in enforcement actions involving substance use and treatment. 

In March, the department concluded the Indiana State Board of Nursing ran afoul of the law when it stopped a nurse from participating in a rehab program due to her use of medication to treat opioid use disorder. In February, the government sued the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania for violating the ADA by allegedly limiting or prohibiting court supervision program participants from using medication to help their recovery.

The guidance, Sharfstein said, “is a very effective approach by the Department of Justice to get people to realize that it’s wrong to discriminate against patients receiving high-quality addiction treatment.” The DOJ’s announcement also comes as “part of a much broader push for federal entities to recognize the importance of addressing our mental health, inclusive of addiction, due in large to the White House’s attention to these critical issues,” said Ben Miller, president of Well Being Trust.


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