Two local lawmakers have differing views on the passage of a bill last week by the Missouri House which has again raised concerns for and against a statewide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP).
The PDMP debate was brought up at the annual Washington Area Chamber of Commerce government forum hosted by the Four Rivers Area YMCA.
State Reps. John Simmons, R-Krakow, and Aaron Griesheimer attended the event and fielded a myriad of questions from about 100 attendees on a wide range of subjects including PDMP.
While those in favor of monitoring the prescription of drugs, especially opioids to reduce addiction and loss of life, those against a PDMP say it is an invasion of patients’ right to privacy and intrusion of the government.
Despite several PDMP bills being proposed in recent years, the measure has never made it to a governor’s desk for signature into law.
In response, dozens of Missouri counties, including Franklin, have instituted their own monitoring programs.
The PDMP bill (HB 188) was sponsored by State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, and was passed by the House by a 103 to 53 margin.
Pill or doctor shopping, the practice of traveling from county to county to find doctors who will prescribe the drugs, also has become a trend with those seeking opioid prescriptions.
With a PDMP in place, any and all opioid prescriptions are registered and can be accessed by a physician to assure the patient does not have any other pending prescriptions in recent weeks.
According to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Franklin County ranks among the highest in the nation for opioids prescribed by physicians.
The report states the wide variation among counties suggests a lack of consistency among providers when prescribing opioids.
The total amount prescribed in 2015 alone was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.
Simmons, who is a chiropractor by trade, said he voted no on the bill along with fellow Franklin County representatives Nathan Tate, R-St. Clair, and Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka.
“I believe in individual freedoms and rights over what the government is doing,” Simmons said. “The government having a database worried me, besides 87 percent of Missouri residents are already covered by some form of PDMP at the county level.”
Griesheimer was the lone yes vote on the bill of the representatives from Franklin County and said it was an educated decision.
“I did my homework and reached out to several doctors at Mercy Hospital,” he explained. “I believe a statewide plan would provide better privacy and better protections than the counties.”
Griesheimer added the legislation has been defeated in the past and this bill will face an uphill battle in the State Senate in coming months.
Last November, Missouri voters approved constitutional Amendment 1 (Clean Missouri), which among other things would require all correspondence to be open to the public including private conversations between lawmakers and constituents.
Despite the amendment’s overwhelming 62 percent passage by more than 1.4 million voters, during the first few days of the legislative session lawmakers have passed bills and resolutions to keep their records private.
Earlier this month four Franklin County representatives voted in favor of an amendment to HB 445 that is designed to protect lawmakers’ private correspondence in relation to the deliberative decision-making process.
Supporters of the bill stress sensitive communications from private citizens could be “weaponized” against them by outside groups with opposing viewpoints, or others who wish them harm.
“Anybody who tells you we are upending Clean Missouri is lying,” Griesheimer said. “People really don’t know. We did not pass a bill about not showing information. Sometimes we get sensitive emails and privacy should be protected.”
Simmons, who also voted for the bill, said when a constituent contacts a lawmaker they should know those conversations will remain private.
“The state Sunshine Law has been modified 17 times since it was originally passed,” Simmons said. “I think what we need to look more closely at is the initiative petition process and how these things are making it on our statewide ballots. There has to be some kind of change.”