Suncoast Rehab Center Wins Discrimination Suit—Victory for Citizens Across United States

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Even with laws protecting people’s rights, some Americans and specifically those suffering from addiction, still face discrimination. Suncoast Rehab Center recently won a legal case that proved the Americans with Disabilities Act can protect American citizens and businesses if they fight for their civil liberties.

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Every day, individuals across our country struggle with addiction. This win empowers all those suffering who so desperately need help

Because of public confusion and uncertainty about addiction, as well as the enormous stigma of the disease, only 10 percent of people in need of alcohol and drug treatment each year get help (1). On Friday, January 11, 2013, a federal jury unanimously reached a verdict finding that Hernando County intentionally discriminated against Suncoast Rehab Center, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility. Suncoast’s victory is a message for all people that discrimination will not be tolerated.

When Suncoast Rehab decided to expand their facility in 2009—in an effort to help more people overcome addiction—they were denied the necessary permit by the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners, according to court documents. The County gave no reason for the denial during the commission hearing. Instead, at the trial, the County attempted to present a defense that its actions were based on what they felt were legitimate reasons unrelated to the status of Suncoast as a substance abuse service provider. The jury received instructions that it could disregard the County’s explanation if it was unworthy of belief.

As a result and after a five-day trial of case number 8-11-CV-1368-T-27TGW at Florida Middle District Court, the jury unanimously concluded that the County’s decision to deny Suncoast a permit to expand was illegal under the Federal Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition to finding that the County’s decision was discriminatory, the jury awarded Suncoast Rehab Center damages for the injuries caused by the June, 2009 decision.

“Every day, individuals across our country struggle with addiction. This win empowers all those suffering who so desperately need help,” commented Tammy Strickling, CEO and Executive Director. “We are more committed than ever to expanding our rehabilitation and education efforts in order to serve more people.”

Passed by Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications (2).

The ADA has been credited with removing barriers for millions of disabled people, including those suffering from addiction, allowing them access to jobs, public buildings, housing and services (3). Many residents and businesses in Hernando County, as well as counties nationwide, benefit from the ADA and have gone on to make the community a better place to live, especially for people with disabilities.

While remaining committed to the rehabilitation of people addicted to drugs and alcohol, Suncoast is also setting an example and paving the way for citizens and organizations to take a stand against discrimination and vest in the rights that the United States law provides.

“This is a great accomplishment for all disabled citizens in our country and all healthcare providers dedicated to helping them,” added Strickling.

About Suncoast Rehab Center:

Located in Spring Hill, Florida, with a 76% success rate, Suncoast Rehab Center provides long-term residential treatment, intensive sauna detoxification, life skills and cognitive therapy and counseling. Suncoast is licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and was recently awarded a 100% inspection score for the third year in a row. Suncoast has a mission to educate youth and adults about drugs and the dangers of drugs, with the aim of preventing future drug use and abuse. Suncoast handles the physical deficiencies, weakness and problems created through drug use, without the use of additional drugs. Clients are helped to uncover the issues that led to their drug use through counseling, therapy and life skills that put the client back in control of his or her life and future. Suncoast’s purpose in drug rehabilitation is to heal the whole person and give the person tools and education to remain drug-free. For more information, visit http://www.suncoastrehabcenter.com.

(1) HBO.com. Accessed January 23, 2013. “Stigma and Addiction,” hbo.com/addiction/stigma/55_stigma_and_discrimination.html
(2) ADA.gov. Accessed January 21, 2013. ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm
(3) Silverstrini, Elaine. TBO.com. August 20, 2010. “ADA proving divisive for Ybor businesses”. tbo.com/news/central-tampa/2010/aug/20/20th-anniversary-ada-proving-divisive-ybor-busines-ar-38118/
(4) ADA.gov. Accessed January 22, 2013. ada.gov/reinvestact.htm

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Diane D. Stein
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