ST. LOUIS (KTRS) – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is fed up with Missouri legislators failing to put a prescription drug monitoring system in place to curb abuse and reduce overdose deaths.
“They have once again, I think for the fifth or sixth time this session, refused to take this basic step,” she said at the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse in Olivette.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined McCaskill. He says he’s working to make more federal funding available to Missouri that would allow for expanded treatment services, and points out that 44 percent of Americans are directly affected by prescription drug abuse.
“We have to act,” he said. “We have to focus on prevention, expand treatment, have criminal justice reform, and economic development opportunities, especially in rural areas, because there is a lack of treatment facilities.”
Missouri is currently the only state in the U.S. that does not have a prescription drug monitoring system in place, and he says that puts our border states at risk as well for those who go to several doctors in order to get more pain killers to feed an addiction.
Vilsack spoke candidly about his own mother’s addiction to pills and alcohol, and says it’s time to get past the stigma and talk about it.
Addiction is a disease, he explained, just like cancer or any other physical ailment.
Vilsack had a message to Missouri legislators who have blocked previous attempts to implement a prescription drug monitoring program, urging them to sit down with parents who have lost children to heroin and pill overdose.
“If they could feel what those families feel,” he said, “the pain, the loss, the frustration.”
McCaskill is working on a measure in Washington that would allow St. Louis County to implement its own prescription drug monitoring system without approval by the state legislature.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was approved by the U.S. Senate and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama this week. (McCaskill successfully included an amendment, which lets St. Louis County’s network of county-level PDMPs to be eligible to apply for federal resources.)
Senator Blunt is also in St. Louis today, where he’s meeting with healthcare officials at St. Louis University, also to talk about the opioid epidemic and proposed increases in mental health funding.
Last month, Blunt — Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education — secured passagee of a bill that includes a 93 percent increase in funding for treatment and prevention programs to combat the opioid epidemic and an $80 million increase in mental health funding.