Detroit Free Press: Bipartisan Jessie's Law can help prevent opioid overdoses
In March 2016, a young woman with great potential named Jessie Grubb died of a drug overdose. Growing up in West Virginia, Jessie was a runner, cheerleader, theater member, and at the top of her class in test scores. She had a bright future.
After being sexually assaulted her freshman year in college, Jessie looked to heroin to try to escape the trauma. Jessie battled this addiction for nearly seven years, going in and out of rehab four times. Following her time at a treatment facility in Michigan, Jessie was turning her life around and making a fresh start in a new state. She had been clean for six months. While training for a marathon — her first — Jessie developed a running-related infection in her hip and required surgery.
Her parents, David and Kate Grubb, made the trip to Michigan to be with Jessie for the operation. They each informed the hospital that she was a recovering addict and should not be prescribed opioids. Tragically, that message never made it to Jessie’s discharging physician. Without knowing her addiction history, the doctor sent Jessie home with a prescription for 50 oxycodone pills. She fatally overdosed the next day.
Jessie’s heartbreaking and preventable story is the inspiration behind bipartisan legislation — Jessie’s Law — named in her memory. U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and I introduced it in the House, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has championed the bill through the Senate.
Jessie’s Law aims to equip medical professionals to safely treat their patients and prevent overdose tragedies. The bill ensures that physicians and nurses have access to a consenting patient’s complete health information when making treatment decisions. Such information is crucial to provide patient-centered care, prevent relapses and ultimately, save lives.
As a parent, your worst nightmare is outliving your child. Our hearts grieve with the Grubb family and so many others who have experienced the unimaginable pain of losing a loved one at the hands of addiction.
Sadly, many of us know somebody like Jessie — a friend, neighbor, family member —whose life has been swept up by the opioid epidemic. It is a crisis touching every corner of America.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 60,000 people died of a drug overdose last year. In 2017, the trend is expected to get even worse. As HHS Secretary Tom Price pointed out, that’s more lives lost per year to drug overdoses than American causalities during the entire Vietnam War.
The total number of opioids prescriptions is staggering as well. In some places, there are more drug prescriptions than people. In Michigan, for example, 11 million prescriptions were issued in 2015 in a state with a population of 10 million.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, is the committee of jurisdiction in Congress for combating the nation’s opioid crisis. Next month, our Oversight and Investigations subcommittee will continue our investigation into unethical behavior like pill dumping which preys on our vulnerable citizens. We’ll also convene a full committee hearing to get feedback from agency officials on the front lines of the federal response to address this epidemic.
As opioid addiction ravages the country, leaving behind unfulfilled dreams of a generation, we must redouble our efforts to respond to this growing crisis. Passing Jessie’s Law is an important part of this comprehensive effort and will help save lives in our communities. There’s not a moment to waste.
Tim Walberg represents Michigan’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. This op-ed originally appeared in the September 22 edition of the Detroit Free Press.