Breaking News

Jessie’s Law Introduced in West Virginia

Something that many people in recovery fear is having to take opioid pain medication because of a surgery or some other accident that has left them in pain. They know that introducing these substances into their body could have the potential to awaken the beast, causing them to relapse and go back out, and because of this, many of us wish to avoid having to deal with such a situation. Read More

Jessie's LawSomething that many people in recovery fear is having to take opioid pain medication because of a surgery or some other accident that has left them in pain. They know that introducing these substances into their body could have the potential to awaken the beast, causing them to relapse and go back out, and because of this, many of us wish to avoid having to deal with such a situation.

We are told when we go to the doctor, that we should inform them that we have a previous history with addiction and would rather not take narcotics of any kind, but sometimes this information either gets lost in the shuffle or is lost in translation.

This is what occurred last year with 30-year-old Ann Arbor, Michigan Resident and recovering opioid user Jessie Grubb. Grubb was a native of West Virginia but came to Michigan in order to get help for her heroin addiction. By all accounts, Grubb was doing well in her recovery when she went in for surgery on her hip last February, but when she left the hospital with a prescription for 50 Oxycodone, she unfortunately died within 24 hours from a fatal overdose.

It is believed that Grubb crushed up the pills and injected them into an IV port that she still had from the hospital and because of this, she suffered an overdose and died. Her story made national news and affected President Obama last year to the point where it helped to inform his decisions on addiction through the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, Jessie’s story is not an anomaly and for years now, people with addiction issues have been suffering relapses due to some unforeseen medical complication or over-prescribing on the part of doctors. There is a thin line that people with addiction issues have to walk when going into the hospital for some sort of surgery or procedure and often times, without the proper support, or the proper information, they can fall to temptation and start using again.

However, a law, aptly named Jessie’s Law, seeks to help those people in recovery and in active addiction not fall into the pitfalls of substance abuse while in the hospital and to help them once they leave the hospital.

The law would allow family members or patients to allow doctor’s access to their substance abuse medical records with a simple verbal confirmation. In the past this was only possible through written consent and in a case where emergency surgery is necessary or written consent cannot be obtained for some reason, this can cause problems during and after the surgery.

With Jessie’s Law, family members would be able to verbally tell the doctors that they can look into the patient’s substance abuse background and in doings so, the doctors can then make an informed decision as to what medication they are going to prescribe for pain. Those who introduced the law believe that in a case like Jessie’s, if a law had been in place that allowed for this, then she would not have left the hospital that day with 50 Oxycodone pills, and therefore, would not have suffered the fatal overdose that she did.

The law was re-introduced to the US senate two weeks ago by two West Virginia Senators, Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore because when they introduced it last year to the Senate, it didn’t pass.

Addiction is a frightening illness that affects millions of Americans but yet is still largely misunderstood by the wider population. There is a tremendous stigma attached to what it means to be an addict and many people blame addicts and alcoholics for their substance abuse issues. Due to this, getting legislation to pass that will help addicts and move us away from the addiction shaming that has been our national policy for some years now, often proves difficult.

We have seen great strides, at least in terms of discussion, over the past year, but in terms of real tangible change, there has not been any. Addicts and alcoholics still sometimes do not have access to the services they so desperately need and many times they are still sentenced to long and harsh prison sentences because of some indelible and misguided need to be “hard on crime.”

We have seen opioid addiction sweep this country in a manner that is unprecedented and we have seen many communities ravaged by its effects, and yet we still cling to old ideals on how we can go about combatting this problem. We have all but proven that ‘Just Say No’ doesn’t work, and we all have but proven that sentencing drug addicts to long prison terms is no deterrent to substance abuse.

Hopefully as a country, we can turn this tide of criminalization and to be honest, general apathy towards addiction, to a more progressive and understanding stance. Hopefully we can pass laws like Jessie’s Law, that while it may not save every addict that goes into the hospital, can at least help to give them a fighting chance. Hopefully Jessie’s Law will pass this time around and doctors and patients can be better informed about how to deal with pain, surgery, or other illnesses without the need for excessive pain medication.