The Missouri House tentatively approved a measure Wednesday to create a prescription drug monitoring program—already used by the 49 other states to safeguard against abuse of opioids and other controlled substances.
Lawmakers gave initial approval to the program on a 110-to-43 vote after more than four hours of debate. The bill still needs final approval from the House before it can head to the Senate.
Missouri is the only state without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program. Debates over conflicting interests of privacy and public health have stalled any action in the past. Missouri is among the 20 worst states for drug overdose deaths.
The program is a tool for medical professionals, said Rep. Holly Rehder, a Sikeston Republican who has sponsored drug monitoring legislation for years.
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“You will hear today privacy concerns, but yet we never had a bill filed to get rid of electronic medical records,” she said early on in the floor debate. “(The program) is for patient safety, for better prescribing practices and for overall allowing the medical professional to understand their patient’s history.”
“My concern with privacy is greatly outweighed by the ability to save a life,” said Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, in support of the legislation.
The bill, known as the Narcotics Control Act, calls for the Department of Health and Senior Services to create and maintain “a program for the monitoring of prescribing and dispensing” a slew of controlled substances.
Opponents argued that the program would not do as much to save lives as supporters suggest.
Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, said it’s not the “role of government to create a big, massive database to do the job of the private industry.”
Former Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, was a major critic of the policy and helped block its passage in the Missouri Senate. He said the program had the “unintended consequence” of hurting people who need a legitimate opioid prescription.
Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, passionately denounced the bill during Wednesday’s debate.
“Our job is to protect the freedoms of liberties,” he said. ”We are giving those away with this legislation.”
A sister bill was defeated in the Senate Seniors, Families, and Children Committee Wednesday morning when the panel deadlocked 3-3. A seventh member of the committee who planned to support the measure was not present for the vote.
In the past, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz has sponsored the legislation, likely making it a priority this session.
The senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, said Wednesday morning’s defeat in committee was disappointing but ultimately won’t have a major impact.
He said he is optimistic a compromise can be struck, adding that he has spoken to every member of the Republican senate caucus who has expressed concernsin the hopes of charting a path forward.
“We were likely going to focus on the House version anyway, and we have the votes to get that out of committee once everyone is present,” Luetkemeyer said.
The Star’s Jason Hancock contributed to this report