JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers clashed over creating a statewide prescription drug monitoring program Wednesday, the latest chapter in an ongoing effort to have Missouri join 49 other states that already have such a system.
The House gave preliminary approval to the Narcotics Control Act by a wide margin after several hours of debate, while a similar bill failed in a Senate committee.
Two Boone County House members, Republicans Cheri Toalson Reisch of Hallsville and Sara Walsh of Ashland, voted no. Republican Chuck Basye of Rocheport and Columbia Democrats Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens supported the measure.
“I’ve heard this bill for the several years that I’ve been in the House, and I have always voted no, and I will consistently vote no,” Toalson Reisch said, adding later, “I think government, as a whole, can’t do a very good job on most things it does. We don’t need more government overreach.”
Missouri is the only state in the nation that does not have a statewide drug tracking program, although parts of the state, including St. Louis and Columbia, have adopted their own system, according to previous Missourian reporting. The proposed system would keep track of prescriptions of certain controlled substances to prevent doctor-shopping, or moving from doctor to doctor to refill a prescription.
House Bill 188, the Narcotics Control Act, was sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston.
During debate, Rehder described her own experience with opioids. She said her daughter began taking opioids for a cut on her thumb but moved on to meth, eventually going to prison and leaving Rehder with custody of her 1-year-old grandson. She and other proponents of creating a PDMP frequently pointed to the tendency of opioid users to move from prescription medicines to harder drugs.
Opponents cited privacy concerns with keeping the medical information of patients in a database.
Rehder responded to privacy concerns emphatically, saying that the bill would not give access to medical information to anyone who does not already have such access.
“The only people we are hamstringing by not having a statewide PDMP are the medical professionals who can actually help with this epidemic.”
The bill would purge patients’ information after three years, and the information would be kept confidential.
Some in the House suggested that the program did not appear to be effective in other states and that the bill needed to be amended to prepare law enforcement for the increase in the use of illegal drugs as a result of the program.
Several attempts were made to amend the House bill, including an attempt to put medical marijuana on the list of substances monitored by the system. All amendments were unsuccessful.
In the Senate, the Committee on Seniors, Families and Children failed to pass Senate Bill 155, with a tied vote of 3-3. The Senate has consistently stopped progress on PDMP plans over the past several years.
The Senate bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, said the committee’s decision not to pass the bill was a “small snafu,” saying the problem was that some committee members were not present for the vote.
“And so assuming we get that (House) bill over here rather quickly, we’ll take that up and start moving it through the process over here on the Senate side. So I really view this as just being a minor hiccup,” Luetkemeyer said.
Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, opposed the bill.
“I have a problem with government tracking people’s prescriptions. That’s always going to be a concern of mine,” Koenig said.
Alexandria Williams contributed to this report.