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US Senate passes ‘Jessie’s Law’ to help combat drug overdoses

By ERIN BECK

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that supporters say might have prevented a Charleston woman’s overdose death in 2016 has passed the U.S. Senate.

Jessica Grubb battled heroin addiction for seven years before dying of an overdose of opioid pain medication in 2016. The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed “Jessie’s Law,” named for Grubb, which says the Department of Health and Human Services may establish guidelines for when health care providers should prominently display a patient’s history of opioid addiction in their medical chart.
(Submitted photo)

“Jessie’s Law,” named for Jessica Grubb, permits the federal Department of Health and Human Services to establish guidelines for when health care providers should prominently display a patient’s history of opioid addiction in their medical chart — “no different than a penicillin allergy,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who sponsored the bill.

Grubb died in March 2016 after surgery in Michigan for a running injury. She and her parents repeatedly had told doctors that she was in recovery from heroin addiction and shouldn’t be given opioids, except under the strictest supervision.

Her discharging doctor never got that message. He wrote her a prescription for 50 oxycodone pills, and she died the night she left the hospital.

“It’s just too great a temptation and it’s just a thing that never, ever should have been put in front of her,” Jessie’s father, David Grubb, said at the time. “She went home with, in essence, a loaded gun.”

Grubb’s story gained national attention after her father, a former West Virginia legislator, told then-President Barack Obama of her struggle with addiction at an event in Charleston in fall 2015.

David Grubb couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Jessie’s mother, Kate Grubb, released a statement, though: “I am ever so grateful for the passage of Jessie’s Law; it eases a mother’s aching heart that this law will save other lives and give meaning to Jessie’s death.”

The bill passed the Senate unanimously Thursday.

Between votes, Manchin said that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had last-minute concerns about HIPAA and privacy.

“They had a hold on everything,” Manchin said. “He finally let it go. It was all hands on deck. I’m very pleased — very, very happy. [Sen.] Shelley [Moore Capito] was helping. Everyone was helping.”

In a statement, Capito, R-W.Va., a bill sponsor, said “Jessie’s story is heartbreaking, but it has also inspired action.

“It’s a small win in a much bigger battle, but it is an important and meaningful step in the right direction.”

The original bill stated that, within one year of enactment, “the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall develop and disseminate standards to provide information to hospitals and physicians relating to prominently displaying the history of opioid addiction in the medical records of patients (including electronic health records) if the patients have consented to having such information included in such records.”

The final version of the bill states that, within one year of enactment, “the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with appropriate stakeholders, including a patient with a history of opioid use disorder, an expert in electronic health records, an expert in the confidentiality of patient health information and records, and a health care provider, shall identify or facilitate the development of best practices regarding — (A) the circumstances under which information that a patient has provided to a health care provider regarding such patient’s history of opioid use disorder should, only at the patient’s request, be prominently displayed in the medical records (including electronic health records) of such patient; (B) what constitutes the patient’s request for the purpose described in subparagraph (A); and (C) the process and methods by which the information should be so displayed.”

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

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