DOJ settlement with skilled nursing facility: excluding people on addiction medication violates the ADA

May 14, 2018: The Legal Action Center hails the Department of Justice’s settlement which found that a skilled nursing facility violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by excluding a patient because the patient was treated with Suboxone for opioid use disorder (OUD).

Sally Friedman, the Legal Director of the Legal Action Center (LAC), applauded the U.S. Attorney’s office for taking action against this widespread form of discrimination, noting that it is likely the first ADA settlement against a skilled nursing facility for excluding patients because they are taking medication to treat their substance use disorder.

“The case law is abundantly clear that the ADA protects individuals with substance use disorder. This settlement by the Department of Justice should send a resounding message to skilled nursing facilities – and other entities – that denying care to people because they are taking life-saving medication to treat addiction is a discriminatory practice that will not be tolerated.”

U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts entered into the agreement with Charlwell House, a skilled nursing facility in Norwood. The settlement, signed May 10, 2018, imposed a civil penalty of $5,000 and required Charlwell House to adopt a non-discrimination training and provide training.

In a statement, United States Attorney Andrew Lelling said “Our office is committed to protecting the rights of people with disabilities, which includes those in treatment for an Opioid Use Disorder,” adding “As Massachusetts faces this overdose epidemic, now more than ever, individuals in recovery must not face discriminatory barriers to treatment.”

This settlement announcement comes on the heels of a letter by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that it is investigating whether the Massachusetts correctional system is violating the ADA by forcing people off addiction medication when they become incarcerated, and an article in STATNews documenting the common practice of nursing facilities refusing to accept patients taking addiction medication.

More information about DOJ’s settlement against Charlwell House is available in DOJ’s press release and settlement.  Information about what to do when forced off medication assisted treatment (MAT) by the criminal justice and child welfare systems or employers is available in LAC’s MAT Advocacy toolkit,


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