JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. - While Missouri continues to be the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program, Jackson County has taken a step of its own towards fighting prescription drug abuse.
The county legislature unanimously passed an ordinance on Monday allowing a prescription drug monitoring plan to be enacted on January 1. Earlier this year, St. Louis and St. Louis County both enacted similar ordinances.
"There is no argument that this needs to be done,” said Crystal Williams, Jackson County Legislature Chair. "We have lots of people that come to Kansas City for treatment. We also see that a lot of people come into Kansas City because there's a little more anonymity then there are in maybe some small towns seeking to get multiple prescriptions for these addictive drugs."
Doctors wouldn’t be forced to participate under Jackson County’s ordinance. However, pharmacists would have seven days to enter data from each purchase of a schedule II, III or IV controlled substance, or face up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail per violation.
Reportable drugs include: oxycodone, morphine, diazepam (Valium).
Just like other prescription drug monitoring programs throughout the country, Jackson County’s aims at preventing people from “doctor shopping” in order to collect a dangerous amount of prescriptions, either to ingest or sell. It would also help authorities determine whether or not some doctors are too liberal in prescribing dangerous prescriptions.
Local health officials estimate there are roughly 26,000 people addicted to opioids in Jackson County alone, accounting for 13 percent of non-natural deaths, the same percentage of those who die in car accidents.
According to the CDC, several states have seen overdose deaths drop and prescription of opioids fall after enacting prescription drug monitoring programs.
So why is Missouri the only state without a PDMP?
"Because Rob Schaaf blocks it in the state Senate, and the state Senate leadership won't do anything about it,” said Williams.
41 Action News reached St. Joseph state Senator Schaaf (R) via phone Tuesday.
"If the people of Jackson County knew what their legislators just did they'd probably be angry,” he said.
A Missouri bill that would have enacted the state’s first PDMP passed the House this year. However, Schaaf, also a doctor, made sure the bill didn’t pass through the state Senate.
"They don't work. And it's an infringement upon people's privacy,” he said. “Most people don't want the government to have that information and have it on a database in which many people can get it."
The senator believes the solution to the current opioid epidemic lies in the hands of the doctors prescribing the medication.
"Doctors are prescribing really powerful opioids inappropriately and they have to stop,” said Schaaf. "We have to get away from the idea that just because somebody says they're having pain that they have an absolute right to these pain medicines. They really don't."
Schaaf is also skeptical of prescription drug monitoring because he feels those seeking the drugs will simply go to other counties to find them.
Williams is hoping other counties follow Jackson County’s lead.
"There are people in their districts who are potentially dying because physicians don't know what these patients are doing,” she said. "It is a bigger problem in some of the poorer, southern parts of the state where those counties likely don't have the funding to do what we're doing … Many of the legislators, senators allowing this to happen ... it's not good public service."
The Jackson County ordinance will be funded by the county’s anti-drug tax in the program’s first year.
Both Kansas City and Independence City Councils need to give their approval to join Jackson County’s prescription drug monitoring program. The county said they’re confident both cities will join.
Prescription drug abuse facts from the CDC:
See more state data from the CDC here.
Josh Helmuth can be reached at email@example.com