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Pesce v. Coppinger

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 26, 2018

KEVIN F. COPPINGER, in his official capacity as Essex County Sheriff, AARON EASTMAN, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Essex County House of Corrections - Middleton, Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Geoffrey Pesce (“Pesce”) is a resident of Ipswich, Massachusetts who has been in active recovery from opioid addiction for two years with the help of a methadone treatment program prescribed by his doctor. D. 15. Pesce brings this lawsuit against Defendant Kevin F. Coppinger (“Coppinger”), in his official capacity as Sherriff of Essex County, and Aaron Eastman (“Eastman”), in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Essex County House of Corrections at Middleton, Massachusetts (“Middleton”), (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that Defendants' policy of denying inmates access to methadone for the treatment of opioid use disorder violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Eighth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. D. 1. Due to imminent probation and criminal matters pending against him in Essex County, including a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of sixty days, Pesce will be incarcerated at Middleton as early as December 3, 2018. Pesce seeks injunctive relief requiring that Defendants provide Pesce with access to his physician-prescribed methadone treatment. D. 12. For the reasons discussed below, Pesce's motion for preliminary injunction is ALLOWED.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Court recognizes that preliminary injunctive relief “is an ‘extraordinary and drastic remedy.'” Voice of the Arab World, Inc. v. MDTV Med. News Now, Inc., 645 F.3d 26, 32 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008)). To obtain such relief, the Court must consider: (1) the movant's likelihood of success on the merits; (2) the likelihood of the movant suffering irreparable harm; (3) the balance of equities; and (4) whether granting the injunction is in the public interest. Corp. Techs., Inc. v. Harnett, 731 F.3d 6, 9 (1st Cir. 2013). Likelihood of success on the merits is the “main bearing wall of this framework.” W Holding Co. v. AIG Ins. Co-Puerto Rico, 748 F.3d 377, 383 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Ross-Simons of Warwick, Inc. v. Baccarat Inc., 102 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir. 1996)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Irreparable harm, on the other hand, is measured “on a sliding scale, working in conjunction with a moving party's likelihood of success on the merits, such that the strength of the showing necessary on irreparable harm depends in part on the degree of likelihood of success shown.” Gedeon v. City of Springfield, No. 16-CV-30054-MGM, 2017 WL 4212334, at *8 (D. Mass. Feb. 24, 2017) (quoting Braintree Labs., Inc. v. Citigroup Global Mkts., Inc., 622 F.3d 36, 42-43 (1st Cir. 2010)). The plaintiff “bears the burden of establishing that these four factors weigh in [his] favor.” Esso Standard Oil Co. (P.R.) v. Monroig-Zayas, 445 F.3d 13, 18 (1st Cir. 2006).

         III. Factual Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are drawn from the complaint, D. 1, Pesce's motion for injunctive relief, D. 12, Defendants' opposition, D. 41, and the parties' supporting filings.[1]

         A. Diagnosis and Treatment of Pesce's Opioid Use Disorder

         Pesce is a thirty-two year old man who has struggled with addiction for several years. D. 13 at 10-11; D. 15 ¶¶ 1, 7, 9. Specifically, he suffers from a chronic disease known as opioid use disorder. D. 1 ¶ 3; D. 18 ¶¶ 11, 20. This disease claims the lives of over one hundred Americans every day. See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Opioid Overdose: Understanding the Epidemic, visited Nov. 20, 2018) (explaining that “[o]n average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose”). More than half a million people in the United States have died from opioid overdose in the last twenty years and the death toll has rapidly increased in the last five years. D. 1 ¶ 22. Here in Massachusetts, opioid-related deaths have surpassed the national average and increased exponentially in the last two years. See id (citing Massachusetts Department of Public Health, The Massachusetts Opioid Epidemic, A Data Visualization of Findings from the Chapter 55 Report, visited Nov. 20, 2018)). Essex County, where Pesce resides, has had the second highest number of opioid-related deaths of any county in Massachusetts since 2013. D. 13 at 9; D. 14-1. In addition, the opioid-related death rate in Massachusetts is 120 times higher for people released from jails and prisons as compared to the rest of the adult population. D. 17-8 at 51.

         As with other chronic diseases, opioid use disorder involves cycles of relapse and remission. D. 1 ¶ 21. Without treatment or other recovery, opioid use disorder may result in disability or premature death. Id Before entering active recovery, Pesce's battle with opioid use disorder caused him to lose his job, forced him to surrender custody of his son and rendered him effectively homeless. D. 15 ¶¶ 7-10. Pesce overdosed on opioids at least six times, and, on multiple occasions, paramedics administered Narcan to save his life. Id ¶ 11. Pesce made numerous attempts to overcome his opioid addiction, including by enrolling in at least four detoxification programs and by taking medications such as buprenorphine (commonly known by the brand name Suboxone®) and naltrexone (commonly known by the brand name Vivitrol®). Id. ¶ 12; D. 19 ¶ 6. None of these efforts were successful at helping Pesce maintain long-term recovery. D. 15 ¶ 12.

         Pesce was admitted into a treatment program for substance abuse at the Lahey Behavioral Services facility (“Lahey”) in Danvers, Massachusetts in December 2016. D. 19 ¶ 10. Pesce's physician there, Dr. Shorta Yuasa (“Dr. Yuasa”), [2] prescribed medication-assisted treatment (“MAT”) with methadone to treat Pesce's disorder. Id ¶¶ 6, 10. According to Dr. Yuasa, MAT is the “standard of care for treatment of opioid use disorders.” Id ¶ 7. MAT involves the use of FDA-approved pharmaceutical medications, including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, in combination with counseling, behavioral therapy and other interventions for the treatment of substance use disorders. Id. As part of his decision to prescribe methadone, Dr. Yuasa considered, among other things, the length and severity of Pesce's addiction to opioids and his previously unsuccessful attempts to achieve long-term recovery using buprenorphine and naltrexone. Id. ¶ 10. In Dr. Yuasa's experience, “there are some people for whom buprenorphine and naltrexone simply do not work, and [Pesce's] history suggests that he is one of those people.” Id.

         Since late 2016, Pesce has received a daily dosage of methadone in liquid form at Lahey. D. 19 ¶¶ 13, 15-16; see D. 44 ¶ 8 (explaining that methadone is a liquid that is administered orally). With this methadone treatment, Pesce has been in active recovery from opioid use disorder for almost two years. D. 19 ¶¶ 13-14; D. 15 ¶¶ 14-22. During this time, Pesce has not had a positive drug screening and he has not intentionally missed a day of treatment. D. 19 ¶ 13. He is working again as a machinist, contributes financially to his family and is able to spend time with his son. D. 15 ¶¶ 18-19. Pesce is now able to take home and self-administer a three-day dosage of methadone. D. 19 ¶ 14. Nevertheless, Dr. Yuasa opines that Pesce must continue to use methadone as part of his ongoing recovery as he is not ready to be tapered off his medication. Id. ¶ 17. According to Dr. Yuasa, without methadone treatment, Pesce will no longer be in remission from active addiction and his tolerance for opioids will diminish significantly. Id. ¶ 24. Dr. Yuasa has treated numerous patients who have relapsed, overdosed and died after being denied access to MAT during incarceration. Id.

         B. Pesce's Current Criminal Matters

         Pesce has two criminal matters pending in Essex County. In March 2016, prior to his recovery, Pesce was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs. D. 26; D. 26-2 ¶ 3. Pesce entered a guilty plea in September 2017 and received a sixty-day sentence that was suspended under the condition that he successfully complete probation, set to expire in September 2019. D. 26-2 ¶ 3; D. 26-1 ¶ 2. In July 2018, while still on probation, Pesce was pulled over on the way to Lahey and charged with driving with a revoked or suspended license. D. 26-1 ¶¶ 3 -4. The criminal charge for driving with a revoked or suspended license constituted a violation of the terms of Pesce's probation. D. 26-2 ¶ 5.

         Pesce must now appear in Lynn District Court for a probation violation hearing on December 3, 2018. D. 31. At that hearing, as a sanction for violation of the terms of his probation, the court could impose the sentence of sixty days previously imposed, but suspended. D. 26-2 ¶ 5. On January 14, 2019, Pesce must appear in Ipswich District Court for entry of a guilty plea and sentencing for driving with a revoked or suspended license in July 2018. D. 31 at 1. That charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of sixty days pursuant to Mass. Gen. L. c. 90, § 23. See ...

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