Missouri becomes last state to create drug monitoring program

MISSOURI (KFVS) - Missouri is no longer the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program.

On Monday, July 17, Governor Eric Greitens signed an executive order establishing a drug monitoring program that will focus on those prescribing the drugs and filling the prescriptions.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will work to create a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

The announcement was made at Express Scripts, a suburban St. Louis based pharmaceutical provider that will be a private-sector partner in the state program.

Greitens said the state's approach could potentially become a national model.

"We need to be honest and clear about the scale of what we are up against: Opioids are a modern plague," said Governor Greitens. "Like the plague, opioids kill the young, the old, the healthy, the sick, the virtuous and the sinful. There's not a corner of our state that hasn't been visited by this curse. There is no single program, or law, or executive order that can fix this crisis. This program is a step—and it's a big step. Throughout this week, we will outline the other steps we will take to address the opioid crisis. The only thing we won't do is wait. We won't wait for this problem to get worse. That's not an option."

The Governor will be in Cape Girardeau on Wednesday to discuss the opioid crisis.

Leaders from around the country are praising the order.

"I commend Missouri Governor Eric Greitens for taking a strong step in fighting the opioid epidemic by joining other states in establishing a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)," said Secretary Tom Price of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "I commend Governor Greitens for his leadership in Missouri as we all work to detect and deter the abuse of prescription drugs."

Representative Holly Rehder, a Republican of Sikeston, has worked for years to get legislation passed for a statewide PDMP. She released a statement Monday afternoon:

I am overjoyed to learn of the Governor's order to help combat our opioid epidemic. This type of cross-check through private sector partnerships has never been done to my knowledge.  I'm excited to say Missouri may be the first to use this innovation that will specifically target pill mills.  Now, more than ever, we should continue to push for a state-wide program.  Right now we have over 60% of Missouri's population covered by a PDMP that allows our medical professionals to see the important narcotic history of their patients.  We will continue to work across this great state to bring that number to 100%.  I look forward to ensuring our county approach, along with the Governor's order today, provides all stakeholders the tools they need to combat this epidemic. It is my hope that these two programs together will save many lives.

Governor Greiten's executive order caught many people off guard. The director of the Cape Girardeau County Health Department, Jane Wernsman, was unaware, initially, that the governor took action until KFVS contacted her.

According to Wernsman, work on similar guidelines at the local level was already underway.

"Both public health and the county commissioner have taken the approach that opioid abuse, use, misuse could be a potential public health threat, could be the next emerging public health issue," said Wernsman. "So the prescription drug monitoring program would be a tool to help prevent that."

Missouri lawmakers for years have considered a drug monitoring program to combat doctor shopping and prescription opioid addiction. But efforts have until now failed, largely because of privacy concerns about keeping medical information in a database.

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Copyright 2017 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.