Governor Parson talks opioids, future of medicine in St. Joseph

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and health care professionals from the area and state met at the Family Guidance Center on Tuesday morning to discuss telehealth and prescription drug monitoring.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson has been pounding pavement around the state this week, making appearances to speak about various health topics and how the state can improve.

The governor came to the Family Guidance Center in St. Joseph on Thursday morning to visit with a packed room of area politicians and health-care managers. Parson said he wants to personally visit towns across Missouri to hear his constituents’ concerns.

“You come out here and you listen to what people are going through, the providers are going through,” Parson said. “Things that they’re doing better on the local level than maybe we are on the state level.”

Parson and his panel spoke at the gathering, discussing the use of telemedicine and how it’s rapidly becoming a popular method of treatment around the country, including in St. Joseph. Telehealth allows patients to connect with physicians over the internet to have a consultation, rather than physically going to the hospital or doctor’s office.

Parson believes Missouri needs to keep up with health-care trends. He said telehealth could benefit those who live in rural areas and often must drive hours to receive treatment.

“We know that with the technology of the future, that’s going to play an important factor,” said Parson. “You see what they’re doing here (in St. Joseph) and what they’re doing for rural Missouri and how important that is.”

Kristina Hannon, vice president of behavioral health at Family Guidance, said even though telehealth seems like a practical fix, it’s often met with skepticism.

“Many people are reluctant to want to see a provider over a computer or over a screen,” Hannon said. “Once they’ve had that initial visit, they understand it’s just like seeing their provider in person.”

Hannon added that in addition to the benefit of not having to travel, telehealth also can connect people with a physician in a more timely manner.

“When you want specialty health care, you want it right now. You need it right now,” Hannon said.

Parson also was asked about an expansion of a drug-monitoring program in the state, which many believe could help curb the opioid epidemic being felt around the country and the state.

“We should have a tracking system on it, I’ve said it openly that I think we should have that,” Parson said. “Since October of this year, we’ve actually taken 43,000 pounds of drugs off the streets, whether that’s voluntary or law enforcement.”

Zach Barrett can be reached

at zach.barrett@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowBarrett.