Washington, DC - The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it has published guidance on how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with opioid use disorder (OUD) who are in treatment or recovery, including those who take medication to treat their OUD. The publication, “The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Opioid Crisis: Combating Discrimination Against People in Treatment or Recovery,” is intended to help people with OUD who are in treatment or recovery understand their rights under federal law and to provide guidance to entities covered by the ADA about how to comply with the law.

“The opioid epidemic continues to pose an extraordinary challenge to communities across our country, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this crisis,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “People who have stopped illegally using drugs should not face discrimination when accessing evidence-based treatment or continuing on their path of recovery. The Justice Department is committed to using federal civil rights laws such as the ADA to safeguard people with opioid use disorder from facing discriminatory barriers as they move forward with their lives.” 

The guidance document explains how the ADA protects people with OUD who are in treatment or recovery from discrimination in a number of settings, including employment, healthcare and participation in state or local government services and programs. The publication is part of the department’s comprehensive response to the opioid crisis, which promotes prevention, enforcement and treatment.

The Civil Rights Division, together with U.S. Attorneys’ offices, has been working to remove discriminatory barriers to recovery for individuals who have completed, or are participating in, treatment for OUD. Through outreach, technical assistance and enforcement under the ADA, the Civil Rights Division seeks to ensure that those in treatment and recovery can successfully participate in their communities and the workforce. For example:

  • On March 25, the department issued a letter finding that the Indiana State Board of Nursing violated the ADA by denying a nurse the opportunity to participate in a substance use disorder rehabilitation program because she takes medication for OUD. The program is required for the individual to reinstate her nursing license.
  • On March 24, the department into a Settlement Agreement with the Massachusetts Trial Court to resolve allegations that its drug court violated the ADA by discriminating against individuals with OUD.
  • On March 17, the department entered into a Settlement Agreement with Ready to Work, a Colorado-based employment, residential and social services program for individuals experiencing homelessness, resolving allegations that the program denied admission to an individual because she takes medication for OUD.
  • On Feb. 24, the department filed a lawsuit against the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, alleging that it prohibits or otherwise limits participants in its court supervision programs from using medication to treat OUD.