To combat the abuse of prescription painkillers, the Jackson County Legislature on Monday afternoon took a first step toward creating a local database to track prescriptions of controlled substances.
All nine legislators are co-sponsors of the measure. It would apply countywide with the exceptions of Kansas City and Independence, which have their own public health departments.
However, the resolution urges Kansas City and Independence to join in, and Kansas City is considering doing just that, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner said.
Missouri is alone in having no statewide registry. Databases in the other 49 states let doctors and pharmacists track whether people are feeding drug habits by getting prescriptions for addictive drugs from multiple doctors.
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Repeated efforts to establish one in Missouri have failed to pass the General Assembly for more than a decade. A bill passed in the House this year but was blocked in the Senate. Critics led by Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, a medical doctor, cite privacy concerns as one reason for their opposition.
Separately, St. Louis and St. Louis County created monitoring programs and are working together to set up a system by the end of the year.
Crystal Williams, chairwoman of the Jackson County Legislature and lead sponsor of Monday’s resolution, said she hopes to have a drug monitoring program running here by year’s end.
Legislator Dan Tarwater, who chairs the anti-drug committee, told an emotional and very personal story to demonstrate the need for such a registry.
A brother of his recently overdosed on drugs and suffered brain damage as a result. The man had been in and out of drug rehab programs for years and fed his habit of using prescription painkillers through so-called doctor shopping, amassing as many as 30 prescriptions each month through various physicians.
Had a prescription monitoring program had been on the books, “could it have been stopped?” Tarwater asked. “I don’t know … but it should have been.”
The Jackson County resolution that passed Monday didn’t establish a registry, but rather “expresses its intent” to set one up “promptly.”
Williams expects to have a detailed ordinance ready for debate and passage in July or August.
“If we save even five lives, it will have been worth it,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the abuse of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and methadone a national epidemic. According to the CDC, more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than any year on record, and more than six out of 10 deaths involved an opioid.