Internationally known drug treatment expert to testify.At a hearing tomorrow in Tazewell County Circuit Court, an ACLU of Virginia cooperating attorney will argue that the judge may not send someone to prison because she received medically prescribed methadone maintenance treatment.
Kim Bucklin was placed on six months house arrest and three years probation after pleading guilty to drug possession and child abuse in June 2003. At the time, she was successfully combating an Oxycontin addition by receiving medically supervised methadone maintenance treatment at the Life Center of Galax. She was allegedly instructed by her probation officer that she must “detox” from methadone within six months.
Ms. Bucklin attempted to comply with this order by tapering her dosage over a period of time, even against the advice of health care professionals at the Life Center. Eventually, however, she began to experience severe withdrawal symptoms, and the center began increasing her doses. When her probation officer heard of this, Ms. Bucklin was immediately jailed, and the circuit court judge revoked her probation, ordering her to spend three years in prison. The judge later vacated his order to give lawyers a chance to argue that the revocation was unjustified.
Ms. Bucklin will be represented at the hearing by Thomas R. Scott, Jr. an attorney at the Street Law Firm in Grundy who is working with the ACLU. He will argue that imprisoning Ms. Bucklin because she continued receiving methadone treatment is cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of due process.
Testifying on behalf of Ms. Bucklin will be Robert G. Newman, M.D., Director of the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and an internationally known drug treatment expert. He is expected to testify that methadone maintenance therapy is the best treatment available for opiate addiction, and is effective in combating crime and helping patients become useful members of society. Forcing a patient to cease methadone treatment is extremely dangerous, and may result in severe withdrawal, relapse, or even death.
The hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, August 20, before Judge Henry A. Vanover at the Circuit Court of Tazewell County.
Contact: Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022