Jessie’s Law Has Been Reintroduced With Bipartisan Support

By Kelly Burch 03/24/17

The legislation would allow addiction history to become part of a patient’s record, if he or she consents. 

Senator Joe Manchin re-introducing Jessie's Law to Congress
Senator Joe Manchin sharing Jessie's story on the Senate floor. Photo via YouTube

Representatives from Michigan and Senators from West Virginia have reintroduced legislation that would ensure that doctors have the addiction histories of consenting patients in order to make informed decisions regarding the prescription of pain pills—building on the legacy of a woman whose heartbreaking overdose captured national attention. 

The legislation, know as “Jessie’s Law,” is named in honor of Jessie Grubb, who died of an overdose last year at the age of 30. The nation first heard about Grubb during a town hall meeting in West Virginia, where her parents shared her story of opioid addiction with President Obama. At the time, Grubb watched the conversation via livestream from her residential treatment facility in Michigan. Sadly, Grubb fatally overdosed just five months after that event.

Grubb, who had battled opioid addiction for seven years, was prescribed oxycodone for pain after a hip surgery, despite her parents calling the hospital to warn that she was a former addict. The next day, Grubb overdosed on the pills. 

“Jessie still had that addict’s brain. I think it was just too much temptation for her to resist,” her father said at the time. 

Her parents and the lawmakers supporting Jessie’s Law hope that the legislation will shift how the medical community considers addiction. 

“If you’re allergic to penicillin, that goes on your record, and if a doctor comes in later and tries to write a prescription for penicillin, it’s blocked, you can’t do it,” Grubb’s father said. “And the same is true with drugs that interact with one another improperly. Anytime you do that, it’s part of the medical records and they’re all electronic.”

The legislation would allow addiction history to become part of a patient’s record, if he or she consents. 

Jessie’s Law was originally introduced last year, but the legislation did not make it out of Congress. This time, the bill has bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. 

"Jessie's story is a heartbreaking example of needlessly losing a loved one to this battle,” said Tim Walberg, a Republican representative from Michigan. “It is vital for medical professionals to have access to the information that they need about their patient's history so they can provide safe treatment and proper care. This bipartisan bill will make a real difference in fighting back against the deadly opioid epidemic and help save lives in our communities.”

Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, says that her father was an opioid addict and her sister died of a drug overdose. 

"I know the horrible pain of living with family members with addiction and the constant ache of losing someone you love," she said. "We have a responsibility to confront this epidemic for families like Jessie's, and it is important that in our discussions to seek solutions, educate and prevent abuse that we ensure we do not stigmatize those with real and legitimate needs."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.