In the past two years, many in northwest Missouri have taken steps to reduce the number of people suffering from opioid addiction. Some say the next step should be Missouri joining the rest of the country in the creation of a prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP.
In 2017, concerns about the rise in opioid addiction were recognized by President Donald Trump when he declared the epidemic a nationwide public health emergency. In response, the St. Joseph Health Department and the Buchanan County Opioid Task Force created the Northwest Missouri Opioid Summit.
Since then, Missouri has established the Good Samaritan Law, which protects those who call emergency services when someone is overdosing. Officials also have taken steps to make the drug Narcan, a nasal spray that can temporarily treat overdoses, more available.
Lacy Walker, who spoke at the summit about her eight years of recovery, said there are many more programs in the state now than when she first began her journey.
“I think there are just more people aware of the disease of addiction and the opioid epidemic,” Walker said. “I wish that there were more individuals who were there when I was beginning recovery, not that there weren’t a lot, but not as many as now.”
While progress has been made, Missouri still has one more step to be on pace with every other state, according to Missouri Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville.
“Right now, Missouri is the only state in the country that does not have a statewide prescription drug monitoring program,” Luetkemeyer said. “All 49 other states have it, and what we’ve seen is a lot of localities, municipalities and counties in the absence of a state implementing a PDMP have created their own local PMDP.”
According to the senator, 85 percent of Missouri already is under local prescription drug monitoring programs, which work in part to prevent people from obtaining multiple opioid prescriptions.
“If someone, for example, goes into their doctor’s office and gets a prescription for painkillers, there’s nothing right now that stops them from just going down the street from another physician’s office and getting the same prescription filled,” Luetkemeyer said.
During the summit, Luetkemeyer talked with those in attendance about his efforts to pass a bill to create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program and why it ultimately was unsuccessful. He said he plans to reintroduce the bill, while Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, works to get it passed in the House of Representatives.
“We have to make sure that we’re keeping our population safe, and if we know one of the leading non-natural causes of death in our state in opioid abuse and overdose, we need to be doing something as state legislatures to protect the public and make our state more safe,” Luetkemeyer said.
As the politicians work to pass legislation they believe will help solve the opioid epidemic, those who treat the addiction continue to educate themselves and stay in the loop on legislation. Teresa Limle, manager of the medically assisted treatment program through Northwest Health Services, said the service already is using a prescription drug monitoring program through St. Louis County.
“It lists if the physicians have prescribed opioids, it lists what number of pharmacy is being used to fill prescriptions and it has an area for Buprenorphine products if they are being prescribed as well,” Limle said.
Limle said that she is in support of a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.
“I think it would be an invaluable tool,” she said.