Southwest Missouri is caught in the midst of the national opioid crisis. Surrounding states, counties and cities have taken action to protect citizens from the big drug companies' push to flood the US market with readily available opioids. Newton County has adopted a “wait and see” strategy.

Southwest Missouri is caught in the midst of the national opioid crisis.  Surrounding states, counties and cities have taken action to protect citizens from the big drug companies’ push to flood the US market with readily available opioids.  Newton County has adopted a “wait and see” strategy.
Thanks to legislation passed by Congress in 2015, the big pharmaceutical companies are pushing billions of highly addictive pain killers into highly suspicious “pain clinics” (CBS 60 Minutes).  Individual state programs can’t solve the problem.  They’re a step in the right direction.  Forty-nine states have adopted Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in an effort to save the lives of citizens who have become addicted to prescription opioids.
Missouri is the only state that has not adopted a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP).  The most recent effort to pass a PDMP was House Bill 1892.  Senator Rob Schaaf “has blocked this legislation when it has reached the Senate for years” (The Missouri Times, 5/17/16).  Schaaf was again successful in killing a Missouri PDMP for the twelfth time with a short filibuster.
At a 2016 discussion on opioids at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, US Senator Roy Blunt said that being the lone state without a prescription tracking system is “not the list you want to be on” (Columbia Tribune, (9/22/17).
Frustrated with the Missouri legislature’s lack of action, St. Louis County adopted a countywide PDMP.  The Saint Louis County Prescription Drug Monitoring Program monitors the prescribing and dispensing of schedule II-IV controlled substances to assist in the identification and prevention of prescription drug misuse and abuse.
Soon other cities and counties joined the effort and signed on to the St. Louis County plan.  PDMP went on line in McDonald, Vernon and Greene counties in July.  Joplin and Jasper County joined in September.  “Forty-seven counties and towns have joined the PDMP and nearly 80 percent of Missourians are part of a monitoring program” (Columbia Tribune, 9/22/17)
The Newton County Health Department was in favor of signing on to the St. Louis plan until they found out that St. Charles County is being sued by United for Missouri.  This is a right wing group organized in 2010 to advocate for smaller government in Missouri.  As stated on the United for MO website, their lawsuit claims that PDMP’s constitute “unreasonable searches and seizures”, thus violating the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution.  Attorney Charles Genisio says the case hinges on the judge’s interpretation of the word ‘unreasonable’.  Forty-seven Missouri counties and cities, plus forty-nine states have found PDMP’s to be not only reasonable, but necessary.
Newton County Board of Health Director Bob Kulp issued the following statement: “While the Newton County Health Department Board of Trustees is in favor of prescription drug monitoring programs, the health board, on the advice of legal counsel is suspending the consideration of a PDMP ordinance until the resolution of the law suit filed by United For Missouri against St. Charles County and the St. Charles County Health Department challenging their PDMP ordinance” (Neosho Daily News, 9/19/17)
This “wait and see” strategy concerns Neosho pharmacist Tim Mitchell.  All surrounding states and many surrounding counties have PDMP’s in place.  That leaves Newton County in a vulnerable position.  Mitchell is quoted in the 9/19 Neosho Daily News article.  “By the end of the year, I will almost guarantee people who do this (abuse prescriptions) will come to Newton County,” he said.  “It will make my job three times harder.”
When will Missouri and Newton County have a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in place?  The answer: Not Yet!

Susanna Smith writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.