New federal data shows the number of drug overdose deaths in Missouri remained virtually the same in 2022 compared to the previous year at nearly 2,200 overdose deaths. The Missouri Legislature’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Task Force is meeting in Jefferson City. It hopes to help address the state’s overdose problem.

Rep. LaDonna Appelbaum, D-St. Louis County, is a task force member.

“I think the overall goal for this task force is, number one, definitely we want to help people,” she said. “That’s bottom line. We’re here to help and find out what’s going on with people and get their lives back, but I think the organizational part of this task force is to find out exactly where we’re spending money in the state to help people.”

The task force researches solutions related to substance abuse and pens legislation to help reach those goals.

Appelbaum proposed that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services should mirror its guidelines for opioid prescriptions that treat chronic pain with that of the CDC. A lot of people fought back on the idea.

“They were petrified that their pain medicine was going to be taken away from them,” according to Appelbaum. “I received so many calls about that and I tried to explain, no we’re not trying to take your pain medicine away, we’re just trying to align the guidelines for chronic pain. And I will tell you, the opioid addiction problem in this state is terrible.”

The issue hits close to home for Appelbaum.

“You know I had a double mastectomy. They, of course, wrote a prescription for opioids for that and then I told them I didn’t want to take anymore, but every time I would go to a chemotherapy session, Walgreens would give me a call and say your prescription is ready for pickup,” she said. “I think there’s a problem there. I literally told my doctors I do not want opioids prescribed and they kept doing it.”

The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Task Force meets once a month in Jefferson City.

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