Document Type


Publication Date



public health, Americans with Disability Rights Act, drug treatment, out-patient treatment, residential treatment


States around the country have begun to adopt programs to divert drug offenders from jails and prisons to community-based drug treatment services. For this strategy to succeed, local officials will need to expand the availability of outpatient and residential treatment programs and address the barriers to siting treatment services, the most significant of which are community opposition and government zoning policies that facilitate community resistance. Civil rights laws, including the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), prohibit zoning discrimination against persons with histories of alcoholism and drug dependence and provide a solid legal foundation for challenging discriminatory zoning standards targeted at drug treatment programs. This article explores whether, in the context of restrictive zoning policies, the expansion of treatment services is best achieved through a litigation-based strategy that seeks to enforce disability rights statutes or a more comprehensive strategy that relies on the adoption of legislative and regulatory standards based on these civil rights protections, along with health care planning, and community education and mobilization. Two case studies are examined to shed light on this question, and the legal standards that have evolved under the ADA and FHA are thoroughly examined in this context. The article also closely examines the source and nature of community opposition to drug treatment services and the reasons that scientific, medical and economic support for drug treatment has not translated into broad-based expansion of treatment in communities.

Publication Citation

57 Rutgers Law Review 631 (2005).


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Criminal Law | Disability Law | Housing Law