ASHLAND, Mo- Missouri’s senior senator is hopeful Governor Eric Greitens (R) will call a special session to consider prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) legislation.

Senator Claire McCaskill briefs reporters in Ashland on July 5, 2017 (Brian Hauswirth photo)

During Wednesday evening’s packed town hall meeting in mid-Missouri’s Ashland, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) blasted the GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature for not passing PDMP this year.

McCaskill also addressed the issue with Missourinet.

“I’m astounded that we are the only state in the union that has put out a welcome mat for heroin dealers,” McCaskill says. “I do not understand it. It is really mind-bending. It is the biggest public health crisis this country has faced in many years.”

Missouri is the only state in the nation without a PDMP, which is an electronic database that collects data on controlled substance prescriptions within a state.

McCaskill praises State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, who has sponsored PDMP legislation for five years. Rehder’s bill died during the 2017 legislative session’s final day in Jefferson City.

“More people in America are dying under the age of 50 from heroin than any other cause, and this prescription drug monitoring program is an essential step in trying to get a handle on this crisis,” says McCaskill.

Rehder says emergency room visits for opioids by Missouri Medicaid patients increased more than 400 percent last year. Rehder also notes 6,000 children were removed from substance abuse homes in Missouri last year.

McCaskill, who’s investigating opioid manufacturers, is also calling on Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) to use his “bully pulpit” to urge the Legislature to approve PDMP.

Hawley filed a lawsuit in St. Louis Circuit Court in June, against three large drug manufacturing companies: Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Hawley alleges the three companies “have profited from the suffering of Missourians,” and that they also carried out a complex campaign in which they deliberately misrepresented the addictive risks of opioids.

McCaskill’s staff says about 265 people attended the Ashland town hall meeting, which took place at the Optimist Club near Highway 63. Ashland is about 15 miles south of Columbia.

McCaskill took about an hour of questions from the audience, questions that ranged from PDMP to abortion.

Senator McCaskill disagrees with a Fulton-area woman, who says pro-lifers are no longer welcome in the Democratic Party. The woman spoke during the town hall. During a media availability after the event, McCaskill notes she serves with two pro-life Senate Democrats: Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey.

“I think we should have a very, very open tent and I would welcome anyone,” McCaskill says. “In fact, we (Missouri Democratic Party) are actively recruiting people to run for the Missouri Legislature who have a different view on this issue than I do.”

Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Austin Stukins, who stood outside the Ashland Optimist Club on Wednesday evening, tells Missourinet that McCaskill is not a moderate.

“And so we felt it was important to highlight the fact that she’s voted with (President) Barack Obama 93 percent of the time, she’s voted with (Massachusetts Democratic) Senator Elizabeth Warren 86 percent of the time,” Stukins says. “You can’t have that kind of voting record and consider yourself a moderate.”

President Donald Trump (R) carried Missouri by 19 points in November. Stukins says McCaskill has voted against seven of Trump’s cabinet nominees.

McCaskill tells the audience that she wants to work with President Trump on paid family leave, saying that Ivanka Trump reached out to her this week.

Audience members Wednesday also asked questions about marijuana and sheltered workshops.

McCaskill says she supports “reclassification” of marijuana. Columbia medical marijuana activist Dan Viets was in the Ashland audience.

McCaskill also endorses sheltered workshops. She tells the audience “it is the moral thing to do”, and that there are cost savings. The audience cheered loudly at McCaskill’s sheltered workshop comments.

Click here to listen to Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s full ten-minute media availability with Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and other reporters on July 5, 2017 in Ashland: