Missouri governor hopes to establish statewide prescription drug monitoring program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As the opioid crisis spreads and continues to kill, Missouri remains the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program.

Some Missouri counties have adopted one, but it's not statewide, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said it’s time to change that.

The numbers are dizzying. Opiods, like prescription pain killers oxycodone and hyrocodone and street drugs like heroin, kill more than 80 people a day in the United States.

"It's heartbreaking. You'd be hard pressed to find a family that hasn't been negatively impacted," said Teesha Miller, director of Jackson County's prescription drug monitoring program.

The concern about a spike in opioid overdoses locally drove Jackson County to adopt what's called a prescription drug monitoring program or PDMP in April 2017.

It allows health care providers to enter a patient's pain pill prescription history into a database, allowing them to flag any patients who might be abusing medications.

"That invites the opportunity to have a conversation, and that conversation can be life-changing for that patient," Miller said.

Right now, about 80 percent of Missouri's population is covered by a city or county PDMP.

But without a statewide program, there are obvious gaps. Miller said local data has pinged pain pill prescription requests from as far away as California.

"If we had a statewide PDMP, there wouldn't be pockets of locales where people could learn and go and fill prescriptions there. It's like any other sophisticated network. You find out (where) the deficiencies are and exploit it if you're thinking in that way," Miller said.

Parson is hoping to change that. One of his top 2019 legislative priorities is for Missouri to join all 49 other states in having a statewide drug monitoring database.

"The reality of it is we have an extremely high death rate in this state, with this problem. And not to do anything about that when we have the ability to at least try to help, give them the tools they need, to have a fighting chance against this problem -- it's unfortunate," Parson said.

Jackson County's already helped prove PDMPs work.

The overdose rates are gradually declining there, and lives are being saved by getting patients into treatment.

"We're not just placing a Band-aid on it or arresting and locking people away, but really taking a look at how can we help providers, patients, children, jobs," Miller said.

There's another step that's already helping this process.

Just this week, the prescription drug monitoring programs that are running in Missouri began an interstate agreement. So now health care providers in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Oklahoma can search each other's records to flag potential pain pill abuse across state lines.