St. Charles County’s decision to start a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) was not an easy one. The belief that government gets too involved in our lives is a real concern; however, we are in a local and national health crisis. I sponsored the bill for this program because, with the lives of adults and children and the future of our community at stake, inaction is irresponsible.
Every state in the country except Missouri has a prescription opioid monitoring system. The fact that prescription opioid drugs are a gateway to heroin is enough to take action. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Missouri had 1,064 overdose deaths in 2014. Nationwide, in that same year, almost 2 million people abused or were dependent on prescription drugs. If this many people were dying from a virus, there would be no question of the need to take action. On a local level alone, the St. Charles County Police Department has responded to 432 calls involving heroin and 116 calls for heroin overdoses since 2013.
The PDMP will be facilitated by the Department of Public Health and will allow physicians/prescribers the ability to see a patient’s opioid prescriptions in an effort to prevent “doctor shopping.” The PDMP links physicians/prescribers and pharmacies together through a useful tool to prevent the abuse of prescription opioids. The information will be added to an electronic database with information from St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis to allow for more comprehensive tracking throughout the region. While privacy has been a concern of those against or cautious about PDMPs, it should be noted that patient names will be accessible to physicians/prescribers and pharmacies only. The only data that will be collected is information about the prescriptions issued for opioids. No information will be gathered about a patient’s symptoms or health condition.
I have faith this program, combined with the drug education efforts by our local law enforcement agencies, will make a difference in our county. I am impressed with how we are reaching our youth before they make the decision to use:
- School Resource Officers from the Community Education Division of the St. Charles County Police Department graduate approximately 1,800 students from the D.A.R.E program in the Francis Howell, Orchard Farm and Washington School districts every year.
- Community Resources United to Stop Heroin, or C.R.U.S.H, is making a difference through education as well. Established by St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar, the initiative brings together more than 25 law enforcement agencies, treatment providers, community leaders, and health care organizations on a monthly basis to address the heroin epidemic.
I would like to thank my fellow Council members, County Executive Steve Ehlmann, and Department of Public Health Director Hope Woodson for supporting this bill; St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis for partnering with us for this program; and all the organizations participating in C.R.U.S.H and other efforts to fight the prescription drug and heroin epidemic and keep our community safe. Together, we are protecting the health and future of our community.