SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) - The opioid epidemic is a growing concern across the nation, particularly in Missouri, where there isn’t a statewide program to monitor narcotics prescriptions.
Tonight Springfield council members could come one step closer to creating a prescription drug monitoring program for the city, which would make it harder to stock up on prescription narcotics.
“That’s where we’re losing people. We’re creating an epidemic, by not having any control over what we’re prescribing,” said Chris Gaul, a Peer Ambassador for the Missouri Recovery Network.
Gaul helps people recover from addiction.
“I see a lot of people dying from opiate usage, and heroin overdoses. There’s just a serious lack of accountability. There’s also a serious lack of resources for individuals that are struggling,” he said.
He says a prescription drug monitoring program could put an end to doctor shopping in Springfield.
“It’s going to put people in a position to where they have to either change or get help. They’re not going to have the ability to go around to multiple doctors and get all of these heavy, narcotic-based prescriptions anymore,” said Gaul.
Saint Louis County has a drug monitoring program in place already. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department would bring that same software program to Springfield.
“If there are people that are dying from overdoses, that’s of keen interest to us,” said Katie Towns, the Assistant Director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.
She says the program would not put your privacy at risk.
“We will use a database that will draw down, in a private manner, protected manner, information about prescriptions that have been filled. Then providers can utilize that information,” said Gaul.
Dr. Tom Prater, Zone II Springfield City Councilman, said, “[It] makes the doctor’s work much easier, because you’re aiming to treat the disease, not the potential for drug-seeking behavior.”
Prater is the councilmember who sponsored the bill. He’s also an eye doctor in Springfield.
“That was an easy decision for me to make because I’ve seen the consequences of opioid abuse and overuse, and not too much in my practice, but we do see patients that come in here and want a prescription for drugs,” Prater said.
Prater says the cost to taxpayers will be roughly $16,000. But he says that will be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Monitoring prescription narcotics won’t put an end to opioid abuse in Springfield, but the people we spoke with say it’s a step in the right direction.
“It’s crucial because we need to have accountability. Not just on the physicians, but on the patients as well,” said Gaul.
This is the bill’s first reading. People will be be able to speak to council to voice any concerns.
The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has been debated in Jefferson City year after year.The bills have failed because some state lawmakers are concerned about privacy.