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St. Charles County moves toward prescription drug monitoring programs

St. Charles County is expected to opt toward establishing its own prescription drug monitoring [PDMP] program that will operate in conjunction with St. Louis City and County.

The county announced on Aug. 30 that a bill establishing the PDMP is scheduled to go before the St. Charles County Council at its Sept. 12 meeting. County Executive Steve Ehlmann requested the bill, which is sponsored by Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 1].

Ehlmann had previously said the county may follow the lead St. Louis City and County in establishing its own PDMP because of inaction by the Missouri General Assembly on legislation to set up a statewide PDMP. Lawmakers opposed to a statewide PDMP have said they are worried about privacy concerns.

In March, the St. Louis County Council passed a bill creating a PDMP, which St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger signed into law. That action was followed by the city of St. Louis enacting similar legislation.

Authorities view a PDMP as critical in helping to deal with the so-called “heroin epidemic” and widespread prescription drug abuse in the greater St. Louis area.

Missouri is the only state in the country without PDMP to monitor opiate-based prescriptions, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, that are prescribed to treat pain but can cause addiction. PDMPs are thought to discourage doctor shopping, where abusers go through a number of physicians to get prescriptions.

“Prescription drug abuse and misuse is dangerous to the health, safety and welfare of our county’s residents,” Ehlmann said in a press statement. “The resulting addiction often leads to the use of heroin.”

Heroin now is often cheaper than prescription drugs.

“We are doing anything and everything we can possibly do to try to get a hold of this terrible situation,” Brazil said in the statement. “Having a drug monitoring program is only one part of the solution, but it is a huge step. Since the state is not taking action, we feel we need to move forward.”

The county’s program would be run by the county’s Department of Public Health and would require physicians and pharmacists prescribing and dispensing the drugs to become registered program users. The county’s information would be added to an electronic database with information from St. Louis City and County.

St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said that because the state doesn’t have a PDMP, abusers come here from other states.

“Missouri has been known too long as America’s drugstore,” Lohmar said. “It’s time that St. Charles County joins with others to do its part in addressing the crisis of opioid addiction facing our country.”

Other local communities, and public and private officials, also have been concerned about establishing PDMPs.

The St. Peters Board of Aldermen discussed passing resolutions at its Aug. 25 work session to urge the Missouri General Assembly and local government officials move ahead and set up a PDMP. The board agreed to direct its staff to draft a resolution, which may be sent to legislators, county officials and the congressional delegation.

St. Peters Alderman Jerry Hollingsworth [Ward 2] said he would support co-sponsoring a resolution, but that he was frustrated at the inability of getting a PDMP established.

“I think a unified approach with the county sounds good. We’ve been talking about this for years and hundreds and thousands of kids are continuing to die from heroin overdoses,” Hollingsworth said. “Somebody’s got to take the lead on this, it’s been talked about for years and the state isn’t doing it, and the county council isn’t doing it. No one is doing it,” Hollingsworth said prior to the action taken by the county council.

Hollingsworth said on Aug. 25 that, while a local resolution has no authority, local resolutions may prompt lawmakers and local government officials to “get off their duff and make something happen.”


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