Wyatt Detention Center ordered to treat inmates with opioid addiction

CENTRAL FALLS, RI (WPRI) — The Wyatt Detention Center will soon begin treating its inmates who are struggling with substance abuse, according to US Attorney Zachary Cunha.

The facility has agreed to provide accommodation with opioid use disorder with the proper treatment prior to joining the prison’s general population. Detainees will then continue to receive that treatment while in custody.

Cunha said the facility and his office reached an agreement following an investigation into the prison’s protocols for substance abuse treatment.

The investigation uncovered that the detention center was not providing inmates with medications used to treat opioid use disorders.

Cunha explained that those undergoing treatment for opioid use disorder are considered disabled under the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA requires prisons to provide the medications necessary to treat inmates struggling with opioid addiction.

Since the detainees weren’t provided with the medication they were prescribed, they had no choice but to undergo a forced withdrawal while incarcerated.

Under the agreement, Cunha said the facility will begin providing these medications to medical care as prescribed by health care professionals. It also prohibits the prison from changing or discontinuing inmates’ opioid treatment medications unless explicitly directed by a medical specialist to do so.

The agreement also ensures that deprivation will not be denied health services related to drug rehabilitation, and that the facility will not use rewards nor punishments to encourage or discourage inmates to be treated for opioid addiction.

The detention center has until June 30 to ensure its policies are in full compliance with the ADA.

Cunha said he is pleased to see that the facility “has committed to meet this critical obligations to its deferred.”

“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.”

12 News reached out to the Wyatt Detention Center regarding the agreement. A facility spokesperson confirmed that it has secured the necessary funding to “implement this important program as soon as possible.”

“The safety and wellbeing 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,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

It’s unclear at this time how many inmates will be impacted by this change in policy, nor how much it’ll cost the prison to maintain it.

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