Missouri House Democrats have a package of legislative proposals for the upcoming session aimed at tackling drug abuse. Topping the list of eight bills filed is one to establish a prescription drug monitoring program.
House Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty of Kansas City says an executive order signed by Republican Governor Eric Greitens over the summer fails to address the full scope of the problem.
“What we have right now simply doesn’t do what we need it to do.” said McCann Beatty. “It’s not binding. We need to be dealing with both the doctor shopping, as well as the over prescribing. We need to have a statewide, quality PDMP (prescription drug monitoring program) that is going to do that. The program the governor did by executive order simply doesn’t do that.”
Greitens’ order called for the monitoring of a database of distributors – doctors and pharmacies – to check for over prescription of opioids. The system doesn’t allow for doctors and pharmacies to access a list of people with prescriptions who could be seeking to garner large quantities.
Assistant House Minority Leader Gina Mitten of St. Louis thinks the program put in place by Greitens falls far short of addressing the opioid problem. “The governor’s order does nothing to identify and combat doctor shopping and other issues that a true prescription drug monitoring program is needed to address,” said Mitten. “Missouri cannot afford to let another year pass without taking this common-sense step already taken by every other state.”
The Greitens administration also gave a $250,000 no-bid contract to pharmacy benefits company Express Scripts to establish and oversee the database of distributors in the state. Express Scripts donated $10,000 to Greitens’ inauguration.
House Democrat Fred Wessels of St. Louis is sponsoring the measure to create the statewide prescription drug monitoring program. Wessels introduced a similar measure in the last session that was eventually combined with a bill from Sikeston Republican Representative Holly Rehder, a vocal champion of the issue.
The legislation stalled late in this year’s session when some conservatives in the Senate objected to the keeping of citizens’ personal information on databases.
Among other bills being offered by the group of Democrats to battle drug abuse is one from Representative Mitten. Her plan requires pharmacies to disclose their methods and locations for the safe disposal of unused medication. The measure also calls for medical professionals with prescribing authority to undergo training on prescription drug abuse in order to renew their licenses.
In addition, a proposal from House Democrat Crystal Quade of Springfield would require the state to enact regulations consistent with federal guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
Also, Representative Lauren Arthur of Kansas City filed a bill prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage for medication assisted treatment. The measure would also remove insurer-proposed barriers to addiction services. Arthur thinks anyone who makes a commitment to beat their addiction should have the tools to succeed.
“We must guarantee that anyone who seeks treatment receives it,” said Arthur. “This legislation eliminates barriers to MAT, a highly effective tool for individuals battling opioid addiction.”
A proposal from Columbia Democrat Martha Stevens would establish a sterile needle and syringe exchange pilot program to help prevent the spread of disease through intravenous drug use.
Representative Cora Faith Walker of St. Louis County filed a bill that calls on the Show-Me-Healthy Babies program to cover substance abuse treatment of women for one-year post-partum. The Healthy Babies Program provides insurance for pregnant women who earn too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid but don’t have affordable private-sector insurance.
And a proposal from Representative Donna Baringer, a former St. Louis Alderwoman, would allow doctors to use a cannabis compound, known as CBD, as a substitute for opioids to treat pain. Baringer says the product would be especially useful for recovering addicts who get sick.
“They get cancer, and what happens is, they’re prescribed opioids to deal with their cancer, the pain,” said Baringer. “So, they’re saying ‘Give me a choice beyond narcotics’. And that choice is CBD oil.” Doctors are currently only authorized to use CBD for ailments such as epilepsy.
Representative Mitten says the Democratic caucus proposals collectively offer a wide range of solutions to address prescription drug and substance abuse in society. “It’s an all of the above approach to try and combat a really significant and serious problem in our state, and in our country,” said Mitten.
The 2018 Missouri legislative session begins January 3rd.