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Ann Arbor News: 'Jessie's Law' named after Ann Arbor woman who died of opioid overdose

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Washington, March 18, 2017 | comments
ANN ARBOR, MI - U.S. Reps. Tim Walberg and Debbie Dingell, along with other members of Congress, have reintroduced "Jessie's Law," a bipartisan bill named after Ann Arbor resident Jessie Grubb, who died of an opioid overdose.

Jessie's Law would help ensure doctors have access to a consenting patient's prior history of addiction in order to make fully informed care and treatment decisions. Providing that information, the lawmakers argue, would help prevent tragic incidents like what happened to Grubb, a recovering addict who was prescribed a powerful opioid that led to her death last March.

The 30-year-old from West Virginia was here recovering from a seven-year heroin addiction and was said to be clean and getting her life back on track when she underwent hip surgery at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in February 2016.

She previously had been in treatment at Dawn Farm, a local addiction treatment and recovery center. After leaving Dawn Farm, she remained in Ann Arbor, a city she grew to love.

According to the lawmakers sponsoring Jessie's Law, her parents informed hospital personnel she was a recovering addict, but that message never made it to the doctor who discharged her. She left with a prescription for 50 oxycodone pills and fatally overdosed by the next day.

Authorities believe Grubb crushed up the oxycodone pills, mixed them with liquid and injected them into an IV port, causing a fatal overdose.

"In communities across Michigan and the United States, too many of our friends, neighbors and family members are struggling with drug addiction," Walberg, R-Tipton, said in a statement.

"Jessie's story is a heartbreaking example of needlessly losing a loved one to this battle. 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."

Jessie's Law also was reintroduced last week in the U.S. Senate by Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore, two senators from West Virginia, with the help of Jessie's parents from West Virginia, David and Kate Grubb.

The lawmakers from West Virginia, along with Dingell and Walberg, also tried introducing Jessie's Law last April, but it didn't make it out of Congress.

"As one who has witnessed firsthand all spectrums of this issue, I believe this bill is one of the most important steps we can take in developing effective strategies to protect families and save lives," Dingell, D-Dearborn, said in a statement.

Dingell said her father suffered from opioid addiction much of his life and she lost her sister to a drug overdose 12 years ago.

"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."

A member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, Walberg continues to collaborate with stakeholders at the local, state, and federal level to raise awareness and develop best practices to fight heroin and opioid addiction. For more information on those efforts, visit walberg.house.gov/heroin.

After learning of Grubb's passing, Manchin said he promised her father her death would not be in vain. A year after her death, he said, he's reintroducing Jessie's Law to make good on that promise and to do all that he can to prevent parents around the country from experiencing the grief that Grubb's parents feel.

"It's devastating knowing that her death was 100 percent preventable and she should still be with us today," he said in a statement. "We must ensure physicians and other medical professionals have full knowledge of a patient's previous opioid addiction when determining appropriate medical care. We will not give up until Jessie's Law is passed into law so her legacy stands long after us."

About 260 Washtenaw County residents have died from opioid overdoses in the last six years, according to statistics tracked by the county. Preliminary data for 2016 showed 59 overdose deaths last year, the second highest level of the last six years.

This article originally appeared in the March 18 edition of the Ann Arbor News.

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