Rhode Island, Massachusetts Healthcare Provider Resolves Allegations of Discriminatory Practices Regarding Patients Needing Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and United States Attorney's Offices in the Districts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts announced today that they have reached agreement with twelve skilled nursing facilities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts operated by Genesis HealthCare Inc, to resolve allegations that the facilities denied admission to prospective residents because they were taking an FDA-approved medical treatment to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.
The investigation was opened after the U.S. Attorney's Offices received complaints alleging that individuals were denied admission to Genesis facilities located in Rhode Island and Massachusetts because they were being treated with buprenorphine or methadone, medications used to treat OUD. Many individuals receiving medication to treat OUD have a disability under federal civil rights laws. The complainants were seeking admission for conditions unrelated to their dependency, but also needed the facilities to administer medication for OUD, as they would administer any other medication for any other chronic illness. In cooperation with the U.S. Attorney's Offices, HHS initiated an investigation to determine whether, and to what extent, these facilities were refusing to admit individuals taking medication to treat OUD.
Under the terms of the agreement, the twelve skilled nursing facilities operated by Genesis HealthCare in Rhode Island and Massachusetts will, among other things, adopt a non-discrimination policy, and provide training on federal civil rights laws and OUD to admissions personnel. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $60,000. $50,000 of the penalty will be suspended and forgiven if the Genesis designated facilities comply with the terms of the agreement.
"Secretary Becerra has made advancing the goal of ending the Opioid Crisis a key priority for HHS, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this deadly crisis. This agreement and the steps that Genesis is taking across its facilities advances this important goal by ensuring civil rights laws protect healthcare access for people who are in treatment for Opioid Use Disorder," said Acting OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese.
"As Rhode Island and the rest of the country continues to confront an overdose crisis, individuals in recovery should never have to face discriminatory barriers to healthcare," said Acting United States Attorney Richard Myrus. "Elimination of these discriminatory barriers is not only a right under federal civil rights laws, it can be a matter of life and death. We appreciate Genesis's cooperation in modifying its policies for compliance with the ADA, and we encourage other skilled nursing facilities to proactively do the same."
"The ADA is the law of the land, and the ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities – including Opioid Use Disorder," said Acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Nathaniel R. Mendell. "All providers must comply with the ADA, and we are happy to vindicate the rights of those in recovery by protecting their fair access to necessary treatment."
A copy of the Voluntary Resolution Agreement may be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/compliance-enforcement/agreements/genesis-healthcares-designated-nursing-home-facilities-agreement/index.html
For more information about what OCR is doing to respond to the opioid crisis, please see: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/opioids/index.html
If you believe that you or another person has been discriminated against by an entity covered by Federal civil rights laws, you may file a complaint with OCR. Information about how to file a complaint is available at: https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints