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Prescription drug monitoring program bill heads to governor

JEFFERSON CITY – In a historic vote, the Missouri House signed off Tuesday on legislation to establish a prescription drug monitoring program — inching one step closer to ending Missouri’s designation as the only state without one.

The bill now heads to Gov. Mike Parson for his signature or veto.

Missouri Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston

Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, who has sponsored the PDMP bill for the last nine years, watched the vote from the side gallery.

“I’m just so thankful,” she said, wiping tears away. “I’m just very thankful.”

The bill would establish a “Joint Oversight Task Force for Prescription Drug Monitoring,” which would be made up of licensed healthcare professionals such as physicians and pharmacists, who would oversee the establishment of a centralized database. The bill is based on the compromise lawmakers reached on last year’s legislation.

Supporters argue it’s necessary to monitor patients’ history and help providers intervene to stop opioid abuse.

In the past, even with the support of Parson, opponents have managed to block the legislation. It appeared to be on the brink of passage last year but was shot down after Democrats who have traditionally supported the program joined Republican lawmakers in opposition.

The fight for PDMP was a personal one for Rehder, who has been open with the fact that her mother and sister struggled with drug addiction, as have her children.

“This isn’t a political bill; it’s a bill for families and those struggling with addiction,” she said, later adding: “I understand it from the child’s perspective, but also the parent not knowing what to do.”

During Tuesday’s debate, the bill faced familiar criticism from conservative Republicans who argued it was an unnecessary and unworkable government overstep that would result in privacy rights’ being violated.

Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, said Missouri had been the sole state without a PDMP but hasn’t seen a disproportionate increase in opioid addiction.

“We’re No. 1 in freedom,” Hill said. “But we’re not No. 1 in overdoses.”

Rehder has pointed to provisions in this year’s bill that require data to be purged on a rolling basis and could be kept for only three years. That protection doesn’t exist in a St. Louis County PDMP program that currently covers more than 80 percent of Missouri’s population. 

The database also cannot be used by law enforcement to prevent an individual from owning a firearm, or as probable cause to obtain a search warrant or arrest. If a person knowingly discloses patient information in violation of the bill, they could be guilty of a class E felony.

Those provisions did little to comfort critics.

“I was told we won in the fall,” Hill said. “I’m not sure we won. We are not the party of big government.”

Rehder said that Parson had been helpful in shepherding the bill across the finish line and that she had no reason to believe he wouldn’t sign her bill.

This article by Jason Hancock is published by permission of The Missouri Independent.

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