Randall Williams | St. Louis Public Radio

Randall Williams

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks with St. Louis Public Radio in downtown St. Louis on Nov. 14, 2019.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri is prepared for the coronavirus that is spreading across the U.S., health officials said Monday.

Gov. Mike Parson said state officials are working with federal and local health departments to track the disease it causes, COVID-19. He expects the federal government will soon distribute money to help the state provide free tests and make other preparations.

“Right now, our main focus is on educating the public on the virus and the steps to prevent it,” Parson said. “We are very well prepared to handle this virus should the need arise.”

A scanning electron microscope image shows the novel coronavirus (yellow) against human cells (pink.) 2-27-20
NIAID-RML

Missouri health officials are taking steps to protect people against the potential spread of the new coronavirus that has sickened thousands in China.

There haven’t been any recorded cases in Missouri and only two in Illinois. But health systems are asking people more questions and creating plans to respond to any potentially infectious patients who come through their doors.

“Our motto is, ‘Hope for the best, prepare for the worst,’” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “In our case, we would much rather be over-prepared than under-prepared.”

A part of the Clear the Air Campaign promotional materials that launched Monday, Nov. 18, 2019
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Monday announced the launch of the state’s new youth vaping education campaign to bring attention to the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping products. 

Parson signed an executive order in October giving the departments of Health and Senior Services, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Public Safety one month to get the program running without any additional funding. 

Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer gives a statement before Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi. Dandamudi will decide if the state was justified in declining to renew the license of the last abortion provider left in Missouri.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The chief doctor at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic testified during a high-profile regulatory hearing on Wednesday that the abortions performed there are safe and that the facility has an above-average record of successful procedures.

State health officials earlier this year decided not to renew the license for Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic, citing concerns about patient safety.

The four instances of patient care that caused state regulators alarm were in line with acceptable legal and medical standards of care, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services. The clinic performs thousands of procedures a year, she said. 

Murphy Lee poses for a portrait at Vape Ya Tailfeather in St. Charles.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri health officials have confirmed two cases in the state of a mysterious vaping-related pulmonary illness that has sickened hundreds of people across the nation. 

Missouri officials are investigating the cases of seven other patients to determine if their symptoms match the criteria for the illness. They’re also warning consumers not to tamper with vaping products.

Patients with the illness report nausea, shortness of breath, fever and elevated heart rates. The nine Missouri patients have reported modifying pre-packaged vaping products to smoke other substances such as vitamin E or THC, said Randall Williams, director of the state Department of Health and Senior Services.

Maia Hayes joined dozens of abortion rights advocates downtown in protesting the potential shuttering of Missouri's last abortion provider. May 30, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are asking a federal judge to overturn a Missouri law banning most abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. 

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, lawyers for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services, the St. Louis clinic that provides abortion services, asked the court to overturn the law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

“Extreme legislators are really pushing to find any way possible to outlaw abortion in the state,” said Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

A kit containing the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.
File Photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The number of drug-related deaths increased by 16% last year, as fatal overdoses declined by an estimated 5.1% nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Missouri is one of 17 states that saw a rise in drug-related deaths last year. In 34 states, the number of deaths declined. Only Delaware had a higher increase over the previous year, at 16.7%.

Why Missouri's The Last Holdout On A Statewide Rx Monitoring Program

May 21, 2019
U.S. map illustration
LYDIA ZURAW | KHN ILLUSTRATION / GETTY IMAGES

Missouri retained its lonely title as the only state without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program — for the seventh year in a row — after the legislative session ended Friday.

Patient advocates, politicians, experts and members of the medical community had hoped this would finally be the year Missouri would create a statewide electronic database designed to help spot the abuse of prescription drugs. After all, Republican Gov. Mike Parson had pushed for it and, more important, its longtime opponent was no longer in office to block it.

Randall Williams appears before the Missouri Senate committee on Gubernatorial Appointments on March 1, 2017.
Marshall Griffin |St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Eric Greitens' nominee to run the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services faced some tough questions Wednesday about his previous job in North Carolina. 

Randall Williams was North Carolina's public health director for about a year and a half. Officials had said that hundreds of wells near Duke Energy power plants were deemed to be contaminated by what's left over when coal is burned. Williams, however, reversed a written warning to the well owners about those toxins. 

 

Senator Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, asked Williams why he did that.