Three Pennsylvania nursing homes and four provider groups operating numerous facilities have agreed to comply with an order from the state attorney general to admit individuals managing opioid use disorder. 

Attorney General Michelle Henry announced an agreement Thursday that covers 38 facilities throughout the state. Per law, nursing homes cannot deny admissions to patients based on opioid use disorder unless they are actively engaged in illegal drug use.

“Opioid dependency impacts every Pennsylvania community, and those receiving medication that enables recovery should not be discriminated against,” Henry said in a press release discussing the agreement. 

According to the release, in December 2022, a 76-year-old man who became addicted to morphine that had been prescribed to manage Lupus was admitted to the hospital with complications stemming from COVID-19. The man needed surgery and other medical interventions to treat an infection. Despite referrals from the hospital, he was denied admission by 11 Harrisburg-area nursing facilities. 

As part of the investigation after the man filed a complaint with the AG’s office, the Civil Rights Enforcement Section reviewed facilities’ admission policies. 

“The Office was able to obtain commitments from them — fashioned as assurances of voluntary compliance, warning letters, or compliance letters — to review and revise their admission policies to conform to the law, and to notify their staff and regular referral sources” the press release said.

As far back as 2018, federal law has warned nursing homes against refusing to admit patients who are being treated for opioid addiction. While legal professionals say the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits those denials, the American Health Care Association has argued that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services prohibits facilities from accepting patients for whom they cannot provide appropriate care. 

A Massachusetts nursing home was required to pay a $5,000 penalty and revise its admissions policy after it denied admission to a patient being treated for opioid disorder. In 2019, 12 Massachusetts facilities that turned away prospective residents who were prescribed buprenorphine or methadone to treat opioid use disorder settled with the US Attorney’s Office in similar cases.  

An article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported that, following the Massachusetts settlement, 81.8% of referrals from hospitals in that state to post-acute care facilities in 2018 were rejected. Some 203 rejections were for patients with either substance use issues or were being treated with opioid agonist therapy, said the research team, which was led by Boston Medical Center.

Henry’s office obtained $6,000 in restitution and damages for the man denied admissions and an additional $4,000 for the office to use for education and future protection, according to the press release. 

The providers that agreed to the compliance commitments are:

•  Spring Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Harrisburg, PA

•   Londonderry Village, Palmyra, PA

•  The Middletown Home, Middletown, PA

•  12 facilities affiliated with Priority Healthcare Group LLC.

•   6 facilities affiliated with Kadima Healthcare Group Inc.

•   6 facilities affiliated with Senior Health Care Solutions LLC.

•  11 facilities associated with ProMedica.A complete list of the facilities can be found here.