If you are a Missourian struggling with an opioid addiction, the state’s top officials have been doing a fine job of raising awareness about your plight.
Summits are being held around the state. All of the governor’s cabinet heads have been ordered to seek out ways to tackle this crisis.
Missouri even played a role when President Donald Trump formally declared the epidemic a public health emergency.
But Missouri still has not implemented the preventive measures employed by every other state. Gov. Eric Greitens has failed to lead on this issue, and now the ramifications are becoming increasingly apparent.
Instead of pressuring the legislature to authorize a statewide database to flag prescription drug abuse, Greitens opted for a half measure. He issued an executive order in July creating a prescription drug monitoring program and then awarded a no-bid contract to a St. Louis-based company that gave $10,000 to his inaugural.
Express Scripts intends to develop a database that can help identify doctors who might over-prescribe or are addicted themselves. Left out is an essential component to track patients who are addicted and need help.
Lawmakers have rightly questioned the freebie to Express Scripts, pointing out the lack of legislative oversight. And months later, the contract has failed to materialize, still held up in negotiations.
Meanwhile, people are dying. Last year, 908 deaths in Missouri were opioid-related.
Missouri is still the only state in the nation without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program that allows doctors and pharmacists to access a database that helps flag patients who might be pill shopping. Overblown concerns about privacy and political stalemates have stalled multiple legislative proposals.
Instead, we have a county-by-county system that was cobbled together when local politicians grew tired of the General Assembly’s dawdling.
Every facet of life in Missouri has been affected by opioid addictions. Employers struggle with lost labor; schools must help children with addicted parents; hospitals treat overdoses; and police track illicit drug sales.
Many who are concerned about this issue were present Thursday as Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, attended a summit in Kansas City. It’s fair to say multitudes of Missourians are highly engaged, determined to save people from their addictions.
The failure, though, is Greitens’. Instead of leading the charge for needed legislation, the governor opted for a limited program and gave the still-unsigned deal to his political donor.