April 08, 2019

Manchin, Capito Reintroduce Legacy Act To Protect Individuals Recovering From Substance Use Disorder

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), last week reintroduced the Protecting Jessica Grubb’s Legacy Act (Legacy Act) to change existing privacy regulations surrounding medical records for those suffering with substance use disorder. The goal of the legislation is to save lives by making sure that medical providers do not accidentally give opioids to individuals in recovery, like in the case of Jessica Grubb. The bill was previously introduced in the last Congress but was not passed into law. This bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).

“The Legacy Act is crucial to making sure that our family members and neighbors struggling with substance use disorder don’t have to experience the same senseless and preventable tragedy that Jessica Grubb and her family suffered. By making changes to the existing regulations regarding medical records, we can save thousands of lives. No one should go to the doctor expecting to receive help and instead be thrown back into the nightmare of addiction. We have seen far too many deaths in West Virginia from this epidemic. This bill will help make sure we are fighting back against this problem, not contributing to it,” said Senator Manchin.

“Jessie Grubb’s death remains a heartbreaking reminder of the opioid epidemic’s consequences, but her story continues to inspire action and results. I am proud to reintroduce this legislation in her honor,” Senator Capito said. “It is essential that privacy requirements for patients’ substance use records are updated to better reflect a patients history and to ensure medical professionals have all of the information they need to avoid tragedies like this. As a mother and a grandmother, I cannot image the pain the Grubb family feels after losing their daughter, but I know this bill will make a tremendous difference as we continue fighting the drug epidemic.”

David Grubb, Jessica's father, said, “We need to end the stigma around substance use disorder and establish procedures that help rather than harm those who are recovering from this disorder. It is not a character flaw, but a disease that should be treated as such.” Jessica’s mother Kate Grubb added, “While we miss Jessie every day, we hope that this legislation will spare families from the sadness and grief we continue to experience and endure.” 

“We thank Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) for their diligent efforts in combatting the opioid epidemic and introducing the Protecting Jessica Grubb’s Legacy Act. Leaders like Manchin and Capito recognize the importance of aligning the treatment of substance use disorder records with how all other medical and behavioral health records are handled. This bipartisan bill will facilitate coordinated care for individuals with an opioid disorder while enhancing the protections that currently exist for patients. Not only does this bill strengthen protections against the use of addiction records in criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings, it further amplifies consumer protections by incorporating antidiscrimination language, enhancing penalties for any breach of a patient’s substance use record, and including breach notification requirements,” said Pamela Greenberg, MPP, President & CEO, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, and Chairperson, Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2.

After battling substance use disorder for seven years, Jessie was sober and focusing on making a life for herself in Michigan. She was training to run in a marathon and had to undergo surgery in March for a running related injury. Her parents, David and Kate Grubb, went to Michigan for her surgery and told her doctors and hospital personnel that she was recovering from substance use disorder. However, after Jessie’s surgery, the discharging doctor, who said he didn’t know she was recovering from substance use disorder, sent her home with a prescription for 50 oxycodone pills. Before her death, David shared her story with President Obama when he came to Charleston for a town hall on the opioid epidemic. Her story had a deep impact on President Obama and she is often credited with inspiring him to dedicate more resources to fighting this devastating epidemic.