Missouri’s second-most populous county is joining a St. Louis-based effort to monitor opioid prescriptions. The program allows doctors to see how many drug prescriptions someone has filled, so they can flag patients who may be abusing opioids.
Jackson County executive Frank White Jr. signed a contract from his seat in Kansas City, finalizing the agreement to join St. Louis County’s program on Tuesday. According to the resolution passed by the county legislature, Jackson County will pay no more than $28,000 a year to participate.
“It allows a doctor to see if a patient has prescriptions through another doctor, so they can make an informed decision about what to prescribe,” said Susan Whitmore, the president of Kansas City-based FirstCall. “At the pharmacy level, it lets them see if a patient has multiple prescriptions for the same drug.”
Missouri is the only state in the country without a statewide database. State Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph has repeatedly blocked proposed laws to implement a statewide database. In 2016, St. Louis County authorized a local prescription drug monitoring database that other jurisdictions can join with a subscription fee.
There were 52 overdose deaths attributed to prescription opioids in Jackson County in 2015, according to the Missouri Department of Health. 10 people died due to heroin overdoses. General consensus among public health officials is that prescription painkillers can act as a gateway drug to heroin and fentanyl, which kill thousands of U.S. residents each year.
“It’s not an issue that’s going to go away,” Whitmore said. “This is coming from a very tragic situation.”
The city of St. Louis and St. Charles County are already part of the system, which will officially start April 1. With the addition of Jackson County, about a third of Missouri’s 6 million residents will live in a county that is participating in the monitoring program.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced that local jurisdictions, not just states, would be able to apply for federal grants to establish monitoring programs, due to a provision included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
Other local jurisdictions in Missouri are in the process of joining St. Louis County’s database. The city of Columbia has asked Boone County’s public health and human services department to draft an ordinance authorizing the program, and members of the Jefferson County Council also have indicated interest.
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