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Council urges state legislators to pass perscription drug monitoring bill to help deal with heroin and opiate epidemic

The St. Charles County Council told a local state representative that the Missouri General Assembly needs to take action on a prescription drug monitoring program [PDMP] soon or the county may have to join with St. Louis City and County in establishing their own PDMP.

State Sen. John Wiemann [R-District 103] came before the council on June 13 to discuss legislation in the last session of the Missouri General Assembly and ran into a strong comments from three councilman.

Local authorities are dealing with a rampant outbreak of heroin use and prescription drug issues that they are calling an epidemic. Opiate-based painkillers are dangerous themselves and often lead to heroin, which now is both cheaper than prescription drugs and purer in recent years. The death toll from heroin overdoses has risen in recent years throughout the nation and St. Louis area.

Authorities say a PDMP is views as a means of tracking prescriptions. Missouri is the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a PDMP and the General Assembly has been unable to pass a bill authorizing one for years.

“We’re in the trenches with this with police and health officials,” said County Councilman Joe Brazil (District 2).  “I sometimes wonder if state legislators are on ground zero with us with what we have to deal with.”

Brazil said the county may be forced to “circumvent the state” and join with St. Louis City and County, which have announced forming their own PDMPs.  The county wants to review what St. Louis County may propose.

A bill by state Rep. Holly Rehder (R-District 148) that would have required the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to start a database to track opiate prescriptions was approved earlier this year by the House but rejected by the Senate.

Wiemann said he did not vote for Rehder’s bill because of concerns about privacy of medical records and questions about costs. “There are bills a lot of times that are good, and a lot of times are bad,” he said.

PDMPs in other states have not always worked well and Wiemann said he wanted to form a work group this summer to come up with proposed legislation that would satisfy privacy concerns and cost questions. One possibility may involve tracking prescriptions that physicians issues.

Any PDMP legislation also has to satisfy state senators who have opposed the bill, he said.

The most prominent state senator who has opposed a PDMP is state Sen. Robert Schaaf (R-District 34).  In an interview with Mid Rivers Newsmagazine earlier this year, Schaaf said he was willing to compromise but not on the privacy of medical records.

But County Councilman Joe Cronin (District 2) said the county needs a PDMP desperately. “I have a daughter-in-law who lives in the county and is a pharmacist in St. Peters and she will tell you it’s a problem,” Cronin said to Wiemann.

“People are getting addicted to painkillers and then going into the streets for heroin and we have a hell of a heroin problem,” he said.

Forty-nine other states have programs and some must work, he said. “Please get this done because there are lives in the balance,” Cronin said.

Councilman Mike Klinghammer (District 6) agreed. The problem is growing and the legislature has done nothing in five years, he said.

“It’s a little frustrating when it keeps getting talked about in Jefferson City and no action is being taken,” Klinghammer said.  “Maybe a little bit of help is better than no help at all.”

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