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Washington state jail to give addiction meds after lawsuit

SEATTLE — A county in Washington state has agreed to provide opiate-withdrawal medication to prisoners at its jail, following a federal lawsuit.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued Whatcom County Jail last year, saying its practice of requiring most prisoners to go cold turkey violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Opioid addiction qualifies as a disability under the law, and the ACLU said prisoners suffering from it are as entitled to medication as those with any other condition. Nevertheless, advocates say relatively few jails provide such treatment.

In the settlement announced Tuesday, Whatcom County agreed to provide the medication to all prisoners who need it — not just pregnant women.

The jail has also been working with treatment providers in the community to ensure prisoners receive addiction treatment after their release.

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