An Everett woman has won a lawsuit to continue methadone treatment for heroin addiction while in federal prison, a legal victory the Massachusetts ACLU hopes will set a precedent for inmates with opioid use disorder.
Stephanie DiPierro is the first person with a substance use disorder to win special approval from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to continue her prescribed medication after she sued the agency back in March. The Massachusetts ACLU’s Jessie Rossman was the lead attorney on the case representing DiPierro. Rossman said she hopes it sets a precedent nationally.
“We hope that the bureau will take a look at their policies and ensure that everyone within the Federal Bureau of Prisons system is able to access the doctor prescribed medication,” Rossman said in a phone interview Monday. She added, “This is something that needs to change for all of the inmates in their system.”
Current BOP policy only allows pregnant inmates to continue methadone treatment while in custody. According to the ACLU, this will be the first time that a non-pregnant inmate will get access to their doctor-prescribed medication for addiction treatment while they are incarcerated on a federal level.
“This is the medical standard of care to treat opioid use disorder,” Rossman said, “and it's particularly important for individuals who are incarcerated to have continued access to their doctor prescribed care.”
DiPierro has been in recovery since 2000, when she was first prescribed liquid methadone as part of a heroin treatment program. She reports to a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., on Tuesday, and she’ll receive her first dose of methadone in custody the following day. DiPierro is serving a 366-day sentence for defrauding public benefit systems.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to requests for comment.