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News covering policy and issues related to city and county governments in the Ozarks.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Approved by Springfield City Council, Greene County Commission

Eric Norris

Springfield doctors and pharmacists will have a new tool to use when prescribing and handing out opiates and opioids.  Springfield City Council approved the implementation of a prescription drug monitoring program for the city Monday night. Hours later, Greene County commissioners approved a database county-wide.

The PDMP will be part of the St. Louis Consortium and will be voluntary for physicians to use and mandatory for pharmacists, according to City Councilman Dr. Tom Prater, who said it will be important in being able to evaluate a patient's needs.

Councilwoman Jan Fisk said the vote was one of the most important in the time she’s served so far.

"I don't think there's been any other time in my five years on council that I've been able to place a vote that has potential to save a life, and if we save one life then it's been worth it," said Fisk.

Kristi Fulnecky was the only one to vote against the ordinance establishing a PDMP.  She wondered why Missouri, until recently the only state without a monitoring program, doesn’t have the highest opioid death rate.  Gov. Eric Greitens just last week signed an executive order establishing a PDMP statewide. Although some believe the rule doesn't go far enough.

Fulnecky questioned whether putting "law-abiding citizens in a database" is the right way to address the prescription drug/heroin problem in Springfield.

"I would rather, maybe, track illegal people that are pushing this rather than our law-abiding citizens.  I mean, if it was working, it would be one thing, but Missouri is still smack dab in the middle for opioid death," she said.

Councilman Tom Prater said being in the middle of the pack for the number of opioid deaths still is not acceptable.

Greene County Commissioners
Credit Claire Kidwell / KSMU
Greene County Commissioners Tuesday, from left; Harold Bengsch, Bob Cirtin and Lincoln Hough.

While Katie Towns, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said, while the PDMP "is not a perfect solution," it's worked in other communities and will be a medical management tool for physicians.  She said this will "get us off the starting block, and from there, we can look at other things that are working and build a more comprehensive plan."

Monday’s council vote preceded approval of a PDMP by the Greene County Commission at its Tuesday morning meeting.

“This is very important, because if more is being used, that could be leading to their addiction which could follow, and that addiction could lead to all sorts of things including death,” said District 1 Commissioner Harold Bengsch.

Bengsch asserts though that patient information will still be confidential, since only the patient’s physician and pharmacists will receive this information.

“I think it will allow physicians to have a better handle on the treatment of the patients that they’re prescribing the opioids for. Right now, they would not know if that patients went to another physician, another pharmacist, another ER – now, they will know that.”

Following the city and county’s actions, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri applauded the two entities.

“It’s vital for cities and counties across Missouri to not ease up on efforts to crack down on prescription drug shoppers—and these votes are an important step forward in the fight against this epidemic. We need to tackle this public health crisis from every angle, and I strongly urge leadership in Jefferson City to enact a real, robust statewide prescription drug monitoring program.”

Commissioner Peggy Davis, who presides over the drug courts in Greene County, said this issue should receive precedence since Missouri is one of the last states in the country to approve a program like PDMP.

“I’ve worked with a lot of jurisdictions across the country, and I find that this is a very effective way to be a good tool in dealing with addiction and helping us stop that overuse of narcotics.”

The measure was accepted unanimously, and while no one from the community came to speak against the measure, Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin noted that the commissioners had received opinions from the other side on the issue.

The program should be in place across Greene County by October.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.
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