Missouri House Democrats say Missouri is in a health care crisis and have unveiled a legislative agenda they say is aimed at improving health care access and outcomes.

State Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, (left) and House Minority Leader Crystal Quade brief Capitol reporters on February 4, 2019 in Jefferson City (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

They held a news conference Monday at the Statehouse in Jefferson City, and the measures they outlined address the state’s opioid crisis and the issue of maternal mortality.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, says approving prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) legislation is a top priority for House Democrats, who are outnumbered 115-47 in Jefferson City.

A PDMP is an electronic database that collects data on controlled substance prescriptions within a state to look for cases of drug misuse. Missouri is the only state in the nation without one.

Leader Quade says PDMP could go to the House floor this week.

“So we’re very excited that this bipartisan supported initiative to help folks who are addicted to opioids and help the opioid crisis is going to be moving through,” Quade says.

Quade tells Missourinet House Democrats support the PDMP bill from State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, which has been approved 13-3 by the Missouri House Insurance Policy Committee.

Rehder’s bill now heads to the House floor, and House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, also supports it.

Rehder says about 6,000 Missouri children are removed from substance abuse homes annually.

Meantime, legislation aimed at preventing maternal mortality has been filed by a St. Louis County state lawmaker. State Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, the ranking Democrat on the House Children and Families Committee, says a woman giving birth today is more likely to die in childbirth than her mother was.

State Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, briefs Capitol reporters on February 4, 2019 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

“The crisis is worse in St. Louis and in the Bootheel and we’re working to address that, but it is a problem overall in the state,” says Unsicker.

She tells Capitol reporters that African-American mothers have a mortality rate twice that of the general population.

Her legislation would establish the “Healthy Mothers Initiative,” which would create a committee of doctors, nurses and other professionals to study maternal mortality and recommend solutions.

A mid-Missouri Democratic state lawmaker has filed legislation to create a pilot program offering free sterile needles and syringes in exchange for new items.

State Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, says Missouri has a drug addiction crisis and that the pilot program would reduce the spread of disease like HIV and Hepatitis C among intravenous drug users.

“Needle exchange programs serve also as vital bridges to treatment and to prevention services,” Stevens says. “These programs exist in 35 other states as a means of intervention.”

Stevens says research shows an individual is five times more likely to enter treatment if they’re utilizing a needle exchange program.

Under Rep. Stevens’ bill, the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) would have at least one exchange site in each of Missouri’s eight congressional districts. The pilot program would also provide educational materials, counseling and testing.

House Democrats also support Medicaid expansion. Governor Mike Parson (R) and new state Medicaid Director Todd Richardson told Missourinet in October that they’re focused on reforming Medicaid, not expanding the program.

Richardson says the Medicaid budget is now about 35 percent of Missouri’s $28 billion operating budget.

Click here to listen to the full news conference with Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, and other House Democrats on February 4, 2019 in Jefferson City: