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U.S. Sen. Manchin questions HHS secretary on implementing Jesse’s Law, better classifying rural Appalachia for federal resources

West Virginia Press Association

WASHINGTON, DC – On April 16, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on fully implementing Jessie’s Law and better classifying rural Appalachia for federal healthcare resources.

On fully implementing Jessie’s Law:

“I was pleased to see the Department finalize the rule to implement the Jessica Grubbs’ Legacy Act that we worked on for so long. The law reduces barriers for treating persons with substance use disorder by aligning the privacy laws governing the records with HIPAA, the law which governs all other health privacy records. This has allowed for medical professionals to access vital information they need to properly coordinate care. In 2018, Congress passed a separate law in honor of Jessie called Jesse’s Law. This requires HHS to develop best practices for hospitals and doctors to display a patient’s history of substance use disorder when the patient provides that information,” Senator Manchin said in part. “Now that the Department has finalized the rule on Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records, it’s time to fully implement Jesse’s Law. When will you be releasing the best practices for displaying substance use disorder and patient records?”

On better classifying rural Appalachia for federal healthcare resources:

“The Health Resources and Services Administration administers grants and programs that are critical to rural health centers, clinics and hospitals. Your budget requests a $2 billion increase to this agency to carry out these programs. However, many areas of West Virginia remain unable to access these resources. West Virginia is the only state that lies completely within the Appalachian Mountain region. A recent United States Department of Agricultural Economic Research Services report recognized this unique topography – we’re the most rugged, mountainous state in the country – finding that almost 81% of West Virginians live in a rugged area. That’s compared to just 11.7% of the entire United States population. The Fiscal Year 2024 bill included language for HRSA to review this report to update their rural definition to better capture the uniqueness of Appalachia. Can you provide an update on this review and a timeline for when we’re going to see results so West Virginians can finally access the resources they need?” Senator Manchin questioned.

A video of Senator Manchin’s questioning is available here.

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