Patients with opioid addiction will be able to get into Pennsylvania’s nursing care centers.
According to Pennsylvania Attorney General (AG) Michelle Henry, several nursing facility providers have agreed to comply with state and federal disability laws to no longer deny admissions to patients on the basis of an opioid use disorder (OUD), unless patients are actively engaging in illegal drug use. The initiative began with a complaint from a 76-year-old man, who developed an opioid addiction after being prescribed morphine to manage his pain from lupus, was denied admission to several PA nursing facilities. In December 2022, the man suffered COVID-19 complications that required hospitalization, medical interventions and surgery. According to the Attorney General’s Office, the man was also prescribed suboxone to treat opioid use disorder, but when the hospital referred him to skilled nursing facilities, all 11 facilities rejected him.
After the man filed a complaint with the AG office, the Civil Rights Enforcement Section reviewed the admission policies of the skilled nursing facilities referred to by the complainant.
“The Office was able to obtain commitments from them — fashioned as assurances of voluntary compliance, warning letter or compliance letters — to review and revise their admission policies to conform to the law, and to notify their staff and regular referral sources,” a press release from the AG’s office stated.
Ultimately, the office received commitments from several provider companies, a total of 38 nursing facilities, to comply with the law that prohibits nursing facilities from denying admissions to patients with opioid use disorder or those who use associated medications, unless they are actively participating in illegal drug use.
“Opioid dependency impacts every Pennsylvania community, and those receiving medication that enables recovery should not be discriminated against,” Henry said. “September is National Recovery Month, and these settlements highlight how people in recovery deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. In fact, the law requires it.”
Last year, in 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released guidelines regarding the opioid crisis and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The guidelines state that a comprehensive approach to the crisis includes enforcing the ADA, “which prohibits discrimination against people in recovery from opioid use disorder (OUD) who are not engaging in illegal drug use, including those who are taking legally prescribed medication to treat their OUD.”
Pennsylvania nursing facilities are not the first to revise their admissions policies. A Massachusetts nursing facility was required to pay a $5,000 penalty after the state’s AG’s office said it was in violation of the ADA when it denied admission to a patient requiring treatment for opioid use disorder.
Back in Pennsylvania, the AG’s office obtained $6,000 in restitution and damages for the man who filed the complaint. It also received an additional $4,000 to be used by the office for education and future protection purposes. The providers that agreed to the compliance commitments are the following:
- Spring Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
- 12 facilities affiliated with Priority Healthcare Group, LLC.
- 6 facilities affiliated with Kadima Healthcare Group, Inc.
- 6 facilities affiliated with Senior Health Care Solutions, LLC.
- 11 facilities associated with ProMedica.
- Londonderry Village
- The Middletown Home
For a complete list of the complying nursing facilities, click here.