Operator of 21 Massachusetts Skilled Nursing Facilities Agrees to Resolve Allegations of Disability Discrimination | USAO-MA

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BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office reached an agreement with Next Step Healthcare, LLC (Next Step), the operator of 21 skilled nursing facilities in Massachusetts, to resolve allegations that Next Step violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by turning away patients who indicated they were prescribed medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD).

“Nobody would ever choose to have a substance use disorder. The destruction this disease inflicts on its victims is unconscionable. When people finally find the strength and courage to be open to entering recovery, they should be met with support and understanding, not discrimination and barriers to healthcare,” said United States Attorney Rachael Rollins. “As our Commonwealth continues to battle an opioid epidemic, this office will ensure that people who receive MOUD have access to the healthcare they are lawfully entitled to and often need. We appreciate Next Step’s cooperation in modifying its policies and practices to come into compliance with the ADA, and we strongly encourage other skilled nursing facilities to proactively do the same.”

Individuals receiving treatment for Opioid Use Disorder are generally considered disabled under the ADA, which, among other things, prohibits private healthcare providers from discriminating on the basis of disability. The United States alleges that Next Step denied admission to 548 individuals who indicated they were prescribed MOUD while seeking admission to Next Step’s programs.  These individuals sought admission to the facilities for health issues unrelated to their addiction, but also required MOUD to treat their OUD. 

Under the terms of the agreement, Next Step will, among other things, adopt a non-discrimination policy regarding the provision of services to individuals with disabilities, including individuals with SUD or individuals on MOUD, provide training on disability discrimination and SUD to admissions personnel, pay a civil penalty of $92,383 to the United States, $10,000 of which will be paid now and $82,393 of which shall be suspended and forgiven if Next Step materially complies with the terms of the agreement.

This matter is part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to eliminate discriminatory barriers to treatment for OUD through ADA enforcement. This is the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s 10th settlement agreement with a skilled nursing facility operator. The Office has now entered into 16 settlement agreements and six letters of resolution to ensure ADA compliance arising from OUD treatment.  The District of Massachusetts is leading the country in this type of important work and will continue to uphold the ADA and support people with substance use disporders.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Leung, Gregory Dorchak and Annapurna Balakrishna of Rollins’ Civil Division handled the matter.

The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was established in 2015 with the mission of enhancing federal civil rights enforcement. For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights



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