Essex and Suffolk counties plan to join five other counties in a pilot program providing medications to opioid-addicted inmates, a sign that correctional officials’ resistance to the treatments may be yielding to public pressure and legal action in Massachusetts. A federal district judge last month ordered Essex Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger to provide methadone to a prospective inmate, saying that failing to do so could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The sheriffs’ request was welcomed by state Senator Cindy F. Friedman, chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery. Friedman said she suspected the Essex suit was a “driving force” behind the request, but the motivation doesn’t matter. “I’m completely happy about it,” she said.