The KY House is not powerless. But it is appearing hesitant to take a legislative step towards helping Kentucky’s rapidly growing addicted population. Failure to do so could cost the state millions in grant money because of Americans with Disabilities Act violations, a newly filed federal lawsuit argues.
Lexington attorney Mark Wohlander started working for the public defender’s office many years ago as an undergrad. While there, he spent a good amount of time researching treatment for young drug offenders instead of jail. Time has passed, but Wohlander’s mission hasn’t changed much. But now, he is one of the two attorneys who on Monday filed the high profile pro-bono case in federal court.
The plaintiff, Stephanie Watson, is a nurse with an opiate addiction whose bond conditions forbid her from taking any medications that would be prescribed by her doctor to treat her addiction, such as Suboxone, methadone or Vivitrol.
The lawsuit argues that such a ban is unconstitutional. It argues that her addiction is protected by the American With Disabilities Act.
Wohlander points out that “addiction has been recognized under the ADA for some time now.” And, although Kentucky has received over $10 million in grants to treat drug addiction, the majority of that money goes towards abstinence based programs.
A recent intensive article in the Huffington Post outlined Kentucky’s particular legal, treatment and social struggle with the heroin epidemic, focusing on the tension between abstinence-based treatment versus medically assisted programs.
Recently, the White House released a statement saying that States must comply with the requirements of the ADA and if they don’t the funding could be cut. With recent national healthcare legislation, Kentucky may not be able to afford to loose this funding, Wohlander said.
The failure of the House to reach an agreement on the heroin bills, could pose large finical consequences for the State.
Wohlander says he “wanted to take this case because it’s important” and that Watson represents a lot of Kentuckians.
He also said that we are not winning this war.
Perhaps it’s time for a new battle plan.