Lawsuit: Washington jail must provide addiction treatment

SEATTLE (AP) — In a novel case with national implications, the Washington state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is suing a county jail to force it to provide opiate-withdrawal medication to prisoners, rather than requiring them to go cold turkey.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, says the Whatcom County Jail’s refusal to provide the medicine violates the Americans with Disability Act, because opioid addiction qualifies as a disability under the law. The lawsuit also says it’s counterproductive, because inmates who go cold turkey risk severe relapse upon release — increasing the likelihood they’ll commit new crimes to satisfy their cravings and that they’ll overdose.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The drugs at issue include methadone and buprenorphine.