After a marathon debate at the Statehouse in Jefferson City, the Missouri House gave initial approval to prescription drug monitoring program legislation on Wednesday.

State Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Union) speaks against the Rehder bill on the Missouri House floor on March 29, 2017 (Brian Hauswirth photo)

The House approved State Rep. Holly Rehder’s (R-Sikeston) legislation, following a three-hour debate.

Rehder tells Missourinet she believes her bill will be given final approval Thursday in the House. It would then go to the Missouri Senate.

Rehder tells her House colleagues that prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest-growing epidemics in the nation.

“Last year the babies born with opiates on Medicaid, the cost was $23 million,” Rehder says on the House floor.

Missouri is currently the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), which is an electronic database that collects data on controlled substance prescriptions within a state.

The House approved Rehder’s bill in a voice vote.

She tells the House that the bill will give prescribers a tool to find and address abuses.

“The most important part of this bill is getting to the root of this addiction, and that’s allowing the physicians to be able to see it on the front end and help a patient get back down to a healthier lifestyle,” Rehder says.

Critics of the bill include State Rep. Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis), a former St. Charles County undercover detective.

“We are addressing a problem with the wrong answer,” Hill tells House colleagues. “The problem are the drug dealers, and they are physicians. It never helps to go after the user.”

Hill says a database won’t work.

Veteran State Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) also questions the bill. He unsuccessfully offered an amendment to establish a voluntary list of addicts or former addicts, patterned after the “casino gambling list”.

“It is nearly identical to the existing program we have for casinos’ gambling list that works, and I think it would work in this realm,” Barnes says.

Rehder asked everyone in the House on Wednesday who supported her bill to vote against Barnes’ amendment, which was then rejected 86 to 68.

The Sikeston Republican says 6,000 children were removed from substance abuse homes in Missouri last year, adding that emergency room visits for opioids by Missouri Medicaid patients increased more than 400 percent last year.

Bill opponents say there is no proof that the bill will stop illegal prescriptions. Some opponents also say the PDMP would violate citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights with no positive outcome.

The Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri Nurses Association, Missouri Pharmacy Association, the Missouri Grocers Association, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Missouri Police Chiefs Association and the Missouri State Troopers Association were among those who testified this year for the Rehder bill.