Government & Politics

Missouri senator says he’ll no longer block prescription drug monitoring program

Missouri Sen. Rob Schaaf said Tuesday evening that he’s ready to accept a prescription drug monitoring program proposed by state Rep. Holly Rehder, a Sikeston Republican. Missouri is the only state without such a program.
Missouri Sen. Rob Schaaf said Tuesday evening that he’s ready to accept a prescription drug monitoring program proposed by state Rep. Holly Rehder, a Sikeston Republican. Missouri is the only state without such a program. skeyser@kcstar.com

The biggest hurdle to ending Missouri’s status as the only state without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program appeared to have been cleared Tuesday evening when the bill’s fiercest critic announced he will no longer stand in opposition.

But his one and only stipulation for agreeing to let the bill pass could still doom the bill’s chances.

State Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican, has long expressed concerns that such a program would be an invasion of people’s privacy. He proposed his own version of a drug monitoring program this session and in years past that would have required the use of a computer system that gave doctors access to full medical records only after the system flagged potential drug offenses.

But Schaaf’s bill never stood a chance in the House, and now he’s finally ready to accept to drug monitoring program proposed by state Rep. Holly Rehder, a Sikeston Republican.

Rehder’s bill proposes a drug monitoring system that more closely mirrors the programs being implemented in counties across the state, including Jackson County. Her bill would give all physicians access to the full prescription drug records of their patients.

“It’s obvious that there’s going to be no compromise no matter what, so let’s have Rep. Rehder’s version,” Schaaf said. “I myself will only be here for another year. I see county (prescription drug monitoring programs) occurring that don’t require physicians to even use them.”

Schaaf has requested that Rehder’s bill be amended to make it a requirement that all physicians use the system. He has also called for language that would make certain doctors liable for overdoses if they don’t properly use the system.

“If we’re going to have versions that put people’s private, very sensitive medical information online on a government database,” Schaaf said, “then by golly, it better get used.”

Rehder said she’d be willing to consider amendments that would make use of the system mandatory.

“It is very true that the states have much better outcomes when the physicians have been required to use the program,” Rehder said. “We certainly don’t want to hamstring physicians or the medical process, but we certainly want the best outcomes.”

But shortly after Schaaf announced his decision, the Missouri State Medical Association tweeted that it would not support any effort to make the system mandatory, potentially throwing a wrench in the drug monitoring program’s new-found momentum.

After years of publicly quarreling with Schaaf, Rehder said she was not informed of his decision to allow her bill to pass until he announced it at a news conference Tuesday evening.

“It’s a bit unorthodox to announce it at a press conference,” Rehder said. “But, hey, I’m taking what I can get.”

Rehder had not yet had time to prepare remarks on how she will move forward with Schaaf’s request.

“I’m speechless,” she said. “We’re very surprised. We didn’t realize that this was coming.”

Rehder’s bill has passed the House and was assigned to the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure & Public Safety Committee.

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