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OVERLAND PARK, KS - The Kansas and Missouri ACLU affiliates and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons reached atemporary settlement that will allow a newly admitted inmate to receive a drug used to treat opioid use disorder.
The temporary settlement in the case involving Leaman Crews, admitted to the federal prison in Leavenworth last week, now allows the prison to administer to Crews a drug used to keep life-threatening withdrawal symptoms at bay.
There are other issues at play, too, said ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Nadine Johnson.
“We’re thrilled about Mr. Crews receiving the medical attention he needs and deserves,” Johnson said. “He was our primary concern. However, a narrow agreement focused only on him isn’t sufficient. We don’t want others to endure the same or similar situations. We look forward to seeing a Bureau of Prisons policy that respects what doctors are recommending in these cases.”
Tony Rothert, interim executive director of the Missouri ACLU and the affiliate’s legal director, sounded a similar concern.
“While we were fighting for Mr. Crews, we will continue to pursue litigation until the policy is changed.”
The Kansas and Missouri American Civil Liberties Union affiliates filed a lawsuit last week seeking a federal court order to compel prison officials to treat Crews’ opioid addiction with buprenorphine, a drug banned at Leavenworth where Crews is incarcerated.
Doctors have used buprenorphine during the past year to restore Crews’ health and to manage dangerous withdrawal symptoms, keeping them at bay, the ACLU said.
The ACLU chapters contend in the suit that withholding medication from Crews violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiffs seek a court order requiring BOP to provide physician-prescribed medication to treat the opioid disorder.
“Absent an injunction, the BOP’s policy will cause Crews to suffer painful withdrawal and will place him at a high risk of relapse, overdose and death,” the ACLU’s filing said.
Crews became addicted to opioids after a car crash left him with back pain.
Rothert, said multiple federal agencies concluded intervention to be the standard of care for opioid disorders. That consensus shouldn’t change because a person is in a correctional environment, he said.
Rothert said federal prosecutors had launched investigations of state and local correctional institutions that withheld treatment of inmates for opioid addiction.
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website atwww.aclukansas.org.