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Prescription Drugs
Addressing the Court

What is Substance Use Disorder?


Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a medical condition characterized by the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Individuals with SUD experience a persistent pattern of substance use that leads to clinically significant impairment or distress. This disorder encompasses a spectrum of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe, depending on the impact on an individual's daily life, relationships, and overall well-being.

About the Program


More than 107,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021 in the United States, with deaths rising fastest in Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. In Kentucky, the rate of fatal overdose continues at high levels, rising 15% from 2021, and has more than doubled among Black Kentuckians in recent years. Yet widespread discrimination against people who use drugs and the routine denial or restriction of lifesaving medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) undermine efforts to curb the overdose crisis.

In response, Kentucky Equal Justice Center has partnered with Vital Strategies' Overdose Prevention Program and the Legal Action Center to launch a new initiative to protect the right to healthcare and other supportive services for Kentuckians with substance use disorder (SUD) or who use drugs. We are also working alongside organizations in Kentucky like VOCAL-KY and to ensure Kentuckians with SUD know their rights and are treated fairly by the systems and institutions they need to achieve and sustain long-term recovery.

Understanding and addressing SUD as a medical condition, rather than a moral failing, is crucial for developing compassionate and evidence-based strategies to support individuals in their journey toward recovery.


Denying People Health Care Because They Use Drugs or Have SUD May be Illegal


KEJC is combatting SUD discrimination by advising and representing individuals who have experienced SUD discrimination, and by providing essential resources to those who have experienced discrimination when receiving healthcare based on a history of substance use and/or abuse by:

  • Protecting the rights of those with SUD through direct advocacy and policy change

  • Providing education and training to service providers, agencies, grassroots partners, and policymakers

Have You Experienced Substance Use Disorder Discrimination?


This can happen in many healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, doctors' offices, recovery housing, and home care. If you have been denied health care because you used drugs, have SUD, or take medication (like methadone or buprenorphine) to treat your SUD, fill out this form to see if we can connect you to resources or help.



Substance Use Disorder Discrimination

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