According to the National Safety Council, Missouri’s legislature is again mired in debate over implementation of a proposed prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). As a past Missouri native, this reluctance to implement a PDMP is distressing.

PDMPs are databases designed to track prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs. Every state but Missouri currently has a PDMP, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls PDMPs one of the “most promising state-level interventions” to improve opioid prescribing, inform clinical practice and protect patients at risk. There are several bills under consideration, including Senate Bill 314 sponsored by Senator Dave Schatz and House Bill 1892 sponsored by Representative Holly Rehder.

The NSC submitted testimony in support of both of these important bills. The National Safety Council strongly supports the use of PDMPs as a mechanism to prevent unintentional prescription drug overdose deaths.

According to Crystal Thomas of the Joplin Globe, there was a hearing to discuss the two bills on January 25, 2017. She reported Steve Russ was one of the people who testified at this hearing. He stated, “I appreciate you guys working on this, but five years of working on this, coming on six, it’s frustrating to me,” Russ told members of the Missouri Senate Health and Pensions Committee, as well as other witnesses gathered to testify, garnering murmurs of agreement from the large crowd.

Russ then told those in the room that he is a former drug addict — now 16 years clean — and that he runs a recovery program for addicts through First Baptist Church in Nevada. He said he has seen the damage drug addiction has done to his own family and to the families of other addicts.

“Those of us who deal day to day on the front lines of addiction, we see that this (a PDMP) is not going to solve the problem — this is a piece that could help,” Russ said. “There’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle that could help this situation.”

As chairman of the committee, state Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, heard testimony on two separate bills that would create such a program, one of those his own bill.

Opioid abuse has gotten worse. In Missouri, hospital treatment for commonly prescribed opioid painkillers increased 137 percent over the last decade, according to a recent study by the Missouri Hospital Association.

Though Rehder’s bill passed the House the last two sessions, it has died in the Senate. Its chief opponent is Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, who says that a prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP, would violate patient privacy.

He’s proposed his own bill, but it would only go into effect with voter approval.

Sen. Dave Schatz’s bill would let physicians and pharmacists directly view that data that would be reported to a database overseen by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Physicians would be able to see what other prescriptions a patient is taking for what drugs and when it was written and filled. Plus, they would be able to proactively identify and offer help to someone with an addiction instead of waiting for the addict to break the law.

At the end of the hearing, Schaaf held a vote for his own PDMP bill, which passed, advancing it to another committee before it would go to the full Senate. Schaaf did not allow a vote on Schatz’s bill.

“I disagree with you and do think you are showing prejudice right now,” Sater told Schaaf about allowing a vote on one bill but not the bill that garnered the most support.

Schatz said he has already re-filed his bill to go through a Senate Transportation and Infastructure and Public Safety Committee Committee that he chairs.

If you support the need for a PDMP in Missouri, there is an organization you may want to contact: Safe and Strong Missouri .