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RI HEALTH

Wyatt detention facility agrees to provide treatment for opioid disorder

An investigation found that the Central Falls, R.I., facility had prohibited methadone and buprenorphine from being used by detainees who had been prescribed that medication

Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — The Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls has entered an agreement to ensure that detainees who were being treated for opioid use disorder will continue to receive treatment behind bars, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced Monday.

An investigation revealed Wyatt had prohibited methadone and buprenorphine from being used by detainees, and no assessment was done to determine if they should keep using those treatments, according to the agreement.

“As a result, individuals with (opioid use disorder) who are incarcerated at Wyatt and have been been prescribed methadone or buprenorphine under the supervision of a licensed health care professional to treat their OUD must undergo forced withdrawal,” the document states.

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Those receiving treatment for opioid use disorder are generally considered disabled under the Americans with Disability Act, and the law requires that jails and prisons maintain medications that individuals have already been prescribed to treat the disorder, the US Attorney’s Office said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Wyatt will provide methadone or buprenorphine for detainees with opioid use disorder who have been prescribed that medication, and the new policy must be implemented by June 30.

“Efforts to combat substance abuse and opioid deaths require every tool at our disposal,” Cunha said. “That means not just vigorous and targeted law enforcement, but also sensible and humane treatment that provides a bridge to recovery. Where medical professionals have determined that OUD treatment is appropriate, the ADA requires jails like the Wyatt to continue to provide it, and I am pleased that, with today’s agreement, the facility has committed to meet this critical obligation to its detainees.”

This matter was handled by Assistant US Attorney Amy R. Romero.

For the next six months, Wyatt must notify the US Attorney’s Office if anyone files a lawsuit, a complaint, or a formal charge with a federal or state agency claiming that Wyatt failed to provide medication to treat opioid use disorder.

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Wyatt warden Daniel Martin issued a statement, saying, “The safety and well-being of our detainees are top priorities of the Wyatt Detention Facility, and we share the federal government’s desire that our detainees receive appropriate treatment for opioid-use disorder. We have secured the necessary funding to implement this important program as soon as possible at the Wyatt.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.