Methadone Clinic Liability

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By now, most people have learned how the opioid crisis has ruined countless lives. As addiction and dependency have spread at a record pace, communities have struggled to keep up with the direct and indirect challenges that have come along with the epidemic. One of the main ways that the medical community has battled opiate addiction is with replacement therapy, often with methadone as a part of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT).

Methadone is a dangerous drug of its own, and MMT involves its own set of challenges, some that will give rise to significant risks and liability. When MMT is working, an addicted person can take a daily dose (usually first thing in the morning) and then goes about a normal and productive day, free from cravings. A person might continue in an MMT program for years and years, often working his or her way up to taking many methadone pills home for unsupervised use.

As the opioid epidemic persists, attorneys in the personal injury, medical malpractice, and health care spaces can all expect to encounter methadone in cases from time to time. Aspects of methadone treatment that are likely to give rise to risks or liability claims in an MMT setting include a lack of medical oversight, inadequate counseling, and mismanagement of take-home medication.

LIABILITY FROM LACK OF MEDICAL OVERSIGHT

MMT is governed by Federal regulations within 42 C.F.R. §8.12. Each opioid treatment program needs to have a medical director, who under federal law, assumes responsibility for administration of all medical services provided by the clinic. 42 C.F.R. § 8.12(b). Before a person begins treatment, they must have an initial medical examination. This is incredibly important because of how deadly methadone can be. To put this in perspective, under federal regulations, an initial dose of methadone for a new patient in MMT can be as high as 30mg. 42 C.F.R. § 8.12(h)(3)(ii). For a person who is not addicted to methadone, this is a lethal dose right out of the gate.

With this level of toxicity, a high degree of medical attention is required and the medical oversight must continue over the course of the program. Liability can arise when a clinic opts for one-size-fits-all approaches and goes extended periods of time without medically evaluating its patients. Shortcuts in medical oversight can lead to significant problems, including overdose, relapse, and failure in the program.

LIABILITY FROM COUNSELING NEGLIGENCE

Another required piece of the MMT program is counseling, which can also be another source of risk. Counseling sessions are required by the federal regulations and when done right, are immensely helpful to patients. Counseling sessions cover the whole patient, and often involve discussions about stressors outside of the limited world of drug addiction. Counselors are expected to inquire about family, job, and any other stressors in life to potentially identify issues before they arise. Methadone programs will run into trouble when counselors are not communicating with medical personnel about problems that come up, because counselors are often privy to the early warnings. Sometimes this information is recorded and never ends up going anywhere, which is a major risk. Clinics with no back-and-forth between the counseling and medical personnel can cause major red flags to be overlooked.

LIABILITY FROM TAKE-HOME MEDICATION

For obvious reasons, the biggest risk of all comes in the form of take-home methadone. Patients begin MMT coming into the clinic six days a week to receive a dose under direct medical supervision. This can be burdensome for the patient, but the rules require it until the patient can build up trust, which is also defined under the federal regulations. The regulations lay out eight criteria that all must be met for patients to receive any take-home medications at all. The criteria speak to abstaining from alcohol and drugs, regular clinic attendance, length of time in the program, but they also look at stability of home life and relationships. They are intended to make sure patients are safe, that they can be trusted to administer their own medication, and that the medication will not fall into the wrong hands. Clinics who take shortcuts in the take-home assessment process endanger not only the patient, but innocent people at home and in the public as well. Clinics must take this responsibility seriously and be consistently vigilant, watching for any signs that the eight-point criteria are no longer being met in their take-home patients and be ready to dial them back and require regular clinic attendance when necessary. Patrick Stoneking

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Comments 8

  1. lynnann yaroscak says:

    needed Lawyer for 62 yr old woman who only goes 1 day a week. was taken off of 560 to 600 milligrams a month with out telling her.she been on since 1987. The doctor was fired. and she suffers alot of disabilitys from the shock to her body.This is a genuine case. imagine 600 milligrams a month.not being told why except they forgot to give her a EKG paper last year,so they took her off no weening. she could of died.please any Lawyers text 724 503 9912. to get case facts. That is all True and Legit.she suffers dementia tremors alot of health issues thank you

  2. Tina Kish says:

    Need an attorney referral for Personal injury or medical malpractice against a MAT clinic in Cleveland Ohio.. Regarding medication dose after knee surgery & billing for counseling & never received services.. Take home medication return bottles not accurately document.. Need State & Feds to investigate!!! Need help before someone dies!! They have caused severe duress tobmy husband..

  3. Paul Swoboda says:

    I desperately need help I desperately need a lawyer who will defend me against this horrific situation I am in this Clinic has never done anything to help me get off of these drugs all they have done is taking my money and they have never helped me in any way whatsoever to try to stop that they have never given me any kind of counseling or anything I need help

  4. Lina Marie says:

    I was on the methadone clinic for 7 years for a heroin addiction. I was told time and time again to not come off because I would relapse and if it’s not broke to fix it. I’m sitting here today with 11 years clean from opiates and alMost 5 years off of methadone, I was a walking zombie that was completely isolated for 7 years. I went through the worst pain of my life coming off that drug. The clinics do NOT PROVIDE any type of counseling what so ever and was given dirty looks or insults if I wanted to come off. I am looking for a lawyer to talk about my situation

  5. David Sanchez says:

    I need a lawyer for all types of violations committed at the methadone clinic I go to.

  6. isaias ramos says:

    I’m trying to find a lawyer because of malpractice.

  7. Gale Z. Cardwell says:

    I’m looking for one in Philadelphia, PA. They murdered my son.

  8. Daniel Doerr says:

    I’m trying to find a lawyer in Pittsburgh PA who is dealing with methadone mismanaged treatment. Can someone please help me finding one?

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