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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

GOP senator says he'll support bipartisan-backed bill creating prescription drug monitoring program

State Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
State Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph

Updated at 6:55 p.m. with more details — In an unexpected move, state Sen. Rob Schaaf said Tuesday night that he now backs the House version of a prescription drug monitoring program, putting Missouri on track to become the last state in the nation to establish such a program.

The Republican from St. Joseph, who had opposed the House bill due to privacy concerns, said at a news conference that he changed his mind due to overwhelming support from medical professionals and from Gov. Eric Greitens. 

His only request is that language be added that requires doctors to use the monitoring program, saying, “especially since the people of Missouri are giving up a measure of their privacy by having their private medical information put on a government database.”

He continued, "As a physician, I, myself, will commit that I am personally willing to be required to use it, and if a patient dies of an overdose, because some prescriber just didn't check the PDMP, that, too, should be malpractice."

The House version, HB 90/68 that’s sponsored by Sikeston Republican Holly Rehder, passed Monday night 102-54 with bipartisan support. It would allow doctors to access patients’ prescription records online to make sure they’re not getting multiple refills from various pharmacies, a practice known as doctor-shopping.

"I'm speechless," Rehder said after Schaaf's announcement. "We didn't realize this was coming."

Rehder has said a monitoring program is crucial to fighting the current opiate epidemic.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston
Credit Tim Bommel I House Communications
Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston

“In Greene County, in 2013, they had one death from opiates,” she said on Monday. “Fast-forward to 2015, just two years later, they’ve had 61 opiate overdoses — this is in Greene County alone — and 20 heroin deaths.”

She also cites the rising number of city and county-operated drug monitoring programs in Missouri, including St. Louis County, as evidence that the public wants and supports her proposal.

Schaaf’s bill, SB 74, would have used a software program to spot potential doctor-shopping by patients while shielding their identities from doctors.

Republican Sen. Dave Schatz of Sullivan is sponsoring a bill that’s identical to Rehder’s proposal, SB 231, and could be the one Senate leaders choose to pass. The deciding factor will likely be which one will have the quicker path to Greitens' desk before the 2017 session ends next month.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Copyright 2017 St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.
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