March 27, 2018

Sen. Joe Manchin: Jessie's Law will prevent deaths in the future | Charleston Gazette-Mail

When you go to the hospital or your primary care doctor, your allergies are known to everyone. Your doctor knows not to prescribe or give you medication because it could kill you — but allergic reactions are not the only thing that could kill you. In Jessie Grubb’s case, it was a prescription for 50 oxycodone pills given to her by her discharging physician.

That’s why Jessie’s parents and I wrote Jessie’s Law, which will establish new standards for healthcare providers to ensure that when a patient provides information about their opioid addiction, that information is shared with their doctors and nurses and flagged just like we would flag a drug allergy. Having this critical information will help ensure that healthcare providers can make medically appropriate decisions about pain management for recovering opioid addicts.

And after two years of hard work and because of the determination and strength of David and Kate Grubb, Jessie’s Law will finally be signed into law. But Jessie’s Law is different from other pieces of legislation. Jessie’s Law will directly save lives and prevent parents from experiencing the heartbreak of losing a child.

Throughout Jessie’s seven year addiction, she interacted with the healthcare system multiple times. She overdosed four times and went to rehab four times. But in 2015 she started turning her life around. She moved to Michigan and by March 2016 she had been sober six months and was training for a marathon.

After sustaining a running related injury she had to undergo surgery for an infection. Her parents traveled to Michigan for Jessie’s surgery and both Jessie and her parents told her doctors and hospital personnel that she was a recovering addict. This was reflected in her medical record in eight different places. However, after Jessie’s surgery, the discharging doctor, who said he didn’t know she was a recovering addict, sent her home with a prescription for 50 oxycodone pills. She died the next day. She should have never been given a prescription for opioid medication.

Her life was taken because of a careless mistake. David and Kate were determined that her death would not be in vain.

Jessie’s death is particularly heartbreaking because it was 100 percent preventable. Before Jessie Grubb’s life was taken over by addiction, Jessie’s future was bright. She was a beloved daughter, a beloved sister to her four sisters and a beloved friend to many. She was an excellent student, scoring in the 99th percentile on all of her tests. She was a cheerleader at Roosevelt Junior High School and was an avid runner. The only trouble she had ever gotten in at school was when she protested the Iraq war. Needless to say she was a natural-born leader.

After graduating from Capital High School, she was thrilled and looking forward to her bright future at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. During her first semester, she was sexually assaulted, which caused her to withdraw from school and return to Charleston.

This traumatic event caused Jessie to turn to heroin to escape the pain. Her story with addiction is known to many. Her father David, a former West Virginia state legislator, shared their family’s struggle with addiction with President Obama when he came to Charleston to bring attention to the growing opioid epidemic. Jessie’s story led to policy changes by his administration to help us fight this crisis.

Jessie’s story and her family’s pain are all too common in West Virginia and throughout this nation. We lost 884 West Virginians to opioids last year alone. But our state is not unique. Every hour, 5 people across this country die from an opioid overdose.

Jessie’s legacy will save people’s lives and will prevent parents and families from dealing with the pain and tragedy of losing their child. David and Kate have been determined from day one to make sure Jessie’s death wasn’t meaningless and I am honored to say that Jessie’s legacy will live on long after we’re gone.