April 25, 2019

Legacy Act Would Save Lives | The Clarksburg Exponent Telegram

As lawmakers in Washington, D.C., debate major issues and look for ways to handle substantial problems, there are pieces of legislation that get shuffled aside.

Perhaps they don’t seem as significant as, say, a trade agreement or a treaty or an investigation of a member of the opposition party.

Whatever the reason, bills that would make a difference fall to the wayside despite the best efforts of those who originally sponsor them.

That’s what occurred to a bill that would have created Jessie’s Law, or the Legacy Act, sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

The bill is aimed at providing accurate medical history information to all key members of a treatment team.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t those medical professionals already know the background of those they are treating?

Yes, they should. But there are cracks and loopholes. And one of them played a role in ending the life of a recovering opioid addict, Jessica Grubb.

A 30-year-old West Virginian, Grubb was in recovery from a substance abuse disorder when she moved to Michigan.

Clean for six months and training to run a marathon, Grubb suffered an injury that required surgery.

As Sen. Manchin wrote in a guest column that appeared in Sunday’s edition, she and her family informed the doctors of her past issues and declared that she was not to be prescribed any opioids.

That message wasn’t shared throughout the medical team, and the discharging physician prescribed 50 hydrocodone pills. The physician, because of current HIPPA regulations, didn’t have full access to Grubb’s records.

Jessica Grubb died the next day of an overdose.

“Jessica’s death was 100 percent preventable, and she should have never been prescribed opioids,” Manchin wrote.

He’s right.

Despite the argument that Jessica had to make the decision herself to take the pills, steps could have been taken — should have been taken — to keep addictive narcotics out of her treatment plan.

She had requested no drugs. Her family had emphasized her addiction issues.

And yet a loophole allowed pills to be prescribed that Jessica’s system could not handle because of her past addictive ways.

The Legacy Act would change privacy regulations surrounding medical records for those suffering with substance use disorder.

It would allow for better sharing of information and save lives by putting in additional safeguards to prevent medical providers from accidentally prescribing opioids to recovering addicts.

While that may not seem as important as other bills that cross lawmakers’ desks, it is high time our representatives in Washington understand that sometimes it’s the small pieces of legislation that ultimately make the most difference.

This bill won’t save Jessica Grubb. It won’t give David and Kate Grubb their daughter back. But it could save someone else’s child. Or husband. Or wife.

In all likelihood, it will save many. Because with the growing number of people in recovery, the odds are great that a repeat of the ill-fated missteps that took Jessica Grubb’s life will be repeated.

Drug addiction is a universal problem that knows no socioeconomic boundaries.

“Substance use disorder doesn’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, rich or poor or where you live,” Manchin wrote. “That’s why we need a holistic approach to fight this epidemic, and we must come at it from every angle in order to end it.

“Even though we’ve made great strides in combating this crisis, we need more funding, stricter laws and more education to help Americans into recovery, make opioids less accessible and end the stigma.”

Sen. Manchin’s bill is a good piece of legislation that needs unanimous support. We’re hopeful lawmakers will take up the proposal in bipartisan fashion and send the Jessica Grubb Legacy Act to President Trump’s desk for signature in expedited fashion.


By:  Staff Writers