Jackson County working with St. Louis County to monitor opioids and controlled substances

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Supporters say it can help save lives, but critics call it an invasion of privacy. On Tuesday, Jackson County joined St. Louis County`s prescription drug monitoring program.

Currently, Missouri is the only state that doesn`t have a database such as this on the state level. Despite there being years of opposition to the idea, it could still happen in the Show-Me State.

County executives from Jackson and St. Louis counties will now work to create a database, that keeps track of which opioids and controlled substances that patients use. The measure, in part, is aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse which continues to be on the rise.

Fourth District Jackson County legislator Dan Tarwarter is thrilled about the partnership. Last year, he lost his brother to an opioid addiction.

“He, because of being in Missouri, was able to get about 30 prescription from 30 different doctors. No on caught it. No one saw it,” said Tarwater.

He calls Missouri a destination for opioid abusers, because they know it’s the only state without a prescription drug database.

While Jackson County calls the partnership with St. Louis county a step in the right direction, one state lawmakers calls it pointless. By phone, FOX 4 heard from Republican Missouri Senator Rob Schaaf from the 34th District.

“I really believe that there will be a court challenge and all those lower ones will go away because I think they`re unconstitutional,” said Schaaf.

The Missouri senator has been an opponent of state prescription drug registries, calling them a big violation of privacy that could give thousands of people access to sensitive information about what drugs a person is taking. Dan Tarwater disagrees.

“This has to be handled the way all medical records are so, therefore, it can not go out into the general public. It cannot be used by the police department,” said Tarwater.

However, Senator Schaaf referred to several instances where databases have been hacked in other states. Also, he spoke of an instance where a Utah police officer was accused of using one of the databases, to find people with painkiller prescriptions, and pretend to do a “pill check” to take their medications.

While he doesn`t support the databases he says he`s tried twice to compromise with proponents. His version would place the information in the hands of the state bureau of narcotics and dangerous drugs.

“It`s kind of frustrating for me that the proponents won`t agree to compromise,” said Schaaf.

Will a statewide database be implemented in Missouri? Senator Schaff says he has no idea if it will happen this year, but Dan Tarwater is optimistic.

“I understand we have a much better chance than we`ve had in year`s past,” said Tarwater.

Senator Schaaf says on Wednesday a committee on health and pensions will take up the issue and probably vote it out onto the senate floor. He says if it advances and become law it would pre-empt county level databases like the partnership signed between Jackson and St. Louis counties.

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