SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Missouri lawmakers are in a time crunch to pass new legislation before the Friday May 17 deadline and one bill that will likely not make it to the finish line is the ‘Narcotics Control Act.’
Sikeston Representative Holly Rehder championed the bill which looks to create a state wide prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP.
It passed the Missouri House back in February, but privacy concerns and threat of a filibuster stalled it in the Senate.
Even though the battle was lost, Rehder and others who support a better drug tracking database plan to continuing fighting for it.
As a voter and a pharmacist, Abe Funk believes a statewide PDMP is an essential tool to help fight the opioid epidemic.
“There are people who are addicted to the medications, and people who are dying from having the medication overdoses," Funk said. "We’re trying to help these people, but if I don’t know that they have a problem. If I don’t know that they are doctor shopping or that they are going to multiple pharmacies I can’t help them.”
Rep. Rehder has fought for seven years to get a PDMP for Missouri, which is still the only state in the nation without one.
Frustrated by lack of action on the issue again this year, Rehder penned an open letter to her colleagues saying they are “Once again putting politics over people’s lives.”
“It’s been pretty interesting the way the senator have tried to set me up and about PDMP," Rehder said. "I didn’t come up here to make friends. Yeah I want to get along with everyone but I am here to fight for our constituents in Southeast Missouri and that is what I am going to do whether any of them like it or not.”
Two common arguments that opponents of a statewide PDMP have brought up are over lawsuits and people’s private information getting hacked.
But people in the industry like Funk say there is no evidence to support it.
“Only medical professionals can access the database," Funk said. “It’s not open to the public. It’s not even open to law enforcement. It’s a very close guarded network. There has never been a successful lawsuit or a data breach in any of the 49 states that have a PDMP. So the privacy argument really is not a strong argument.”
Most cities and counties in Southeast Missouri are part of St. Louis County Health Department’s prescription drug monitoring program, but Funk says it has flaws.
"It’s not a complete database even for Cape County because its voluntary there is a lot of information that is missing,” Funk said. “Having a statewide database would help fill those gaps. It would give us information. It would gives us access to people who come from other states.”
Rehder says she is still passionate about passing a statewide PDMP and plans to continue her efforts next year.
Below is Rehder’s entire open letter she wrote to the General Assembly on May 15, emphasizing that “Missourians deserve a vote on PDMP.”
For the seven years that I have been here, we have worked to pass a statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Two days left in session and it’s safe to say this won’t be the year it finally gets done. I realize that makes some of you cheer. But for the many Missourians silently struggling with this epidemic at home tonight, they won’t be. Year after year as we have failed to act thousands of our citizens have lost their lives. Those numbers include children who have lost their moms and dads, moms and dads who have lost their children, communities losing their futures and Missouri just simply losing. We have let the petulant voices of an extreme minority, day by day, week by week and now year by year, rob Missouri of its future.
All Session we have seen some members of the self-titled “Senate Conservative Caucus” sew a path of obstruction not often based on conservative principles. Their brand of “conservatism” has proven if anything, only to be consistently inconsistent. They have decided that their view of conservatism is better than not only that of their colleagues but of even President Trump. In case they didn’t know, since being elected, President Trump has been leading the fight to end the opioid epidemic ravaging our country. He has signed executive orders, helped pass bi-partisan legislation and launched a national initiative to end opioid abuse by, among other things, advocating for the creation of a nationwide prescription drug monitoring program. When it comes to PDMP, they have chosen to not only disrespect President Trump and their Senate colleagues but have now moved to disrespect the entire General Assembly and the legislative process. I was raised to stand up for myself and for those who simply cannot. That is what I have been doing and will continue to do.
We shouldn’t stand idly by and let the actions of a few destroy the future of so many. This week screams to that if nothing else. On PDMP I ask you honestly, if so many of those opposed to a statewide PDMP truly believe in the weight of their argument, the conservatism of their policy and in the rightness of their position, why didn’t they show up at their local county commission meeting and oppose it when it passed in their own backyards? Did they not want to face their voters who were advocating for it, look the affected families in their faces or explain their position to the many medical and emergency professionals who are in the trenches fighting this epidemic every day? If they truly believe that they, a handful of Senators, have more knowledge and understanding on this highly complex epidemic – more so than the team of experts that the President put together to make recommendations for our country – why didn’t they present their case locally? Furthermore, if a PDMP infringes upon 4thAmendment Rights wouldn’t some state by now have lost, or be embroiled in, a lawsuit since these have been in operation since the 1930s? Of course they would be. The facts speak for themselves.
As elected officials, we should never go along with those who arbitrarily pick and choose what they are going to support or oppose based off their ever-changing definition of “conservatism,” especially not when it’s clearly for political purposes. This disrupts and disrespects the work the people elected us to do. The Veterans Survivor Grant program that some Senators in the “Conservative Caucus” decided to try to smear me about this past week and weekend has been sitting in the Senate ready to be finally voted out since March. Their ill-conceived plan to attack me on social media failed to recognize that we had already passed that program out of our Rules Committee, months ago. It is a House bill however, so passing it means it won’t have the Senator’s name on it. Once again putting politics over people’s lives.
Take a moment to examine the actions of these few in our final week of session. Twenty-seven or so hours of sabotaging other members priorities as the clock ticks on, in a promise to refuse a vote on any bill that includes a closing slush fund and fast track, only to end the filibuster with a ground-breaking promise to do what the Senate was already going to do, pass the Pro-Life bill. However, they did take it one step farther insisting the Pro-Life bill be taken up next instead of the way that the Pro-Life bills have been taken up and passed in the past – strategically. So now we find ourselves where we are tonight, two days from closing and Senate leadership desperately trying to get the Pro-Life bill across the line intact. What a mess.
In closing, I think it’s important that we always call balls and strikes regardless of who’s in the game. Some filibusters are worthy efforts; some are nothing more than political posturing trying to secure a position in the next election. It’s pretty easy to see true intent and motives around here; when a Senator stands in their Ivory Tower giving speeches and holding up progress because they aren’t getting their way; or when Senators hide behind disingenuous tweets to slander a colleague while attempting to hide their true intent; or when Senators vehemently oppose a policy in the Capitol for the rest of the state, but remain silent when their local officials pass it back home. That’s not statesmanlike my friends, that’s cowardice.
Most of you know by now that I will not be intimidated. Regardless of how many doors get slammed. Regardless of how many people scream or cuss. Regardless of how many threats of no longer having friends in the Senate. Regardless of personal attacks on social media. Where I’m from these types of actions are called temper tantrums, and they don’t get rewarded. You can call yourself a Lion and a defender of all things pure and holy, but if you walk like a duck and talk like a duck, well, you know the rest.
We have never asked for a guaranteed outcome in the Senate, but Missourians deserve a vote on PDMP.
Rep. Holly Rehder