Manchin calls on HHS Secretary to fully implement Jessie’s Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is wondering why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not fully implemented a law that requires HHS to give hospitals and medical professionals the best practices for a patient that provides their history of substance use disorder.

The law, known as Jessie’s Law, was included in the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention That Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2018. Since then, HHS has only partially responded to the directive.

Joe Manchin

“Now that the Department has finalized the rule on Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records, it’s time to fully implement Jessie’s Law,” said Manchin.

Jessie’s Law is named after Jessica Grubbs, a West Virginian who died in 2016 from substance use disorder after she was prescribed opioid pills following a hip surgery. Grubbs battled substance use disorder for seven years but was able to get sober for six months while living in Michigan.

Grubbs became a consistent runner and was training to run in a marathon, although she had to undergo surgery for a running related injury. Her parents were with her at the hospital and had told her doctors and hospital personnel that she was recovering from substance use disorder. The discharging doctor claimed he didn’t know Grubbs was recovering from substance use disorder and had sent her home with a prescription for 50 oxycodone pills following her surgery.

“Jessie’s death is particularly heartbreaking because it was 100 percent preventable,” Manchin said in 2016. “She should never have been given one, not one.”

Senator Manchin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, asked Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about that during their meeting Tuesday.

“When will you be releasing the best practices for displaying substance use disorder and patient records?” asked Manchin.

Becerra responded by saying there are still difficulties with HIPAA privacy laws. He said they are now working with providers to go over a newly-developed training module so that they understand how this law will work with privacy laws.

“We’re trying to tackle that HIPAA privacy hurdle so that it doesn’t become the reason the information isn’t fully there,” said Becerra. “We need providers to start understanding what the new rules are.”

However, Manchin said there shouldn’t be any more hurdles to try and get over. The law says a patient and the parent or guardian have to give permission to the doctors to obtain that information. According to him, the final step is on Becerra to implement the law.

“I would implore you to get your staff moving on this one,” Manchin told Becerra.

“We need the help of the providers to make sure their personnel are understanding the new rules,” Becerra said.

“Well I think the quicker you put them out, they quicker they’ll understand them,” Manchin said in response.

Last week, Manchin and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) sent a letter to Secretary Becerra urging the full implementation of Jessie’s Law.

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