Opioid abuse could lead to new tracking program in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services is looking to combat the growing problem of prescription opioid abuse by implementing a prescription drug monitoring program.

Missouri is the only state in the country without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.

Mayor Brian Treece requested The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health look into joining a drug monitoring program started by St. Louis County. 

Treece said he felt the need to do something after the legislature failed to pass a statewide program this year.

"Drug abuse doesn't stop at the city limits. It doesn't stop at the Boone County line. Anything we can do to adopt this common sense drug safety registry probably helps everyone in our community," Treece said.

Treece said a prescription drug monitoring program would cost each prescriber about eight dollars a year. He said he thinks this is a reasonable price tag to help stop the prescription opioid epidemic.

"It enforces them to go somewhere else. They are always going to take the path of least resistance. If we can adopt a prescription drug monitoring program that enters those names in a national data base, then I think it's going to curtail the use of these pain killers and hopefully keep some of them off the streets," Treece said.

According to Scott Clardy, assistant director of the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, St. Louis County is still in the infant stages of their program.

"They are working with a contractor that provides this service in several other states. They have employed a person that is the prescription drug monitoring program coordinator in another state," Clardy said.

Clardy said the department is more than happy to work with the county.

"Our hope is that if all Missouri counties become involved in this it essentially would be a statewide program. But at this point, there is no mandate for that and of course it's costly for other counties," he said

Columbia resident Jim Marshall is no stranger to opioid overdoses. His son Cody died from an overdose almost five years ago. Marshall has become an advocate for fighting opioid addiction since then.

"It's been a tough road in the Capitol. It has not got through for the last five years now. I think a lot of counties are starting to see that they need to do something now because the epidemic is getting worse by the minute," Marshall said.

Marshall said this program will also stop people coming from different states to "doctor shop."

"All of our surrounding states have PDMP, so with things being tight in their own state, trying to get multiple prescriptions, they come over to Missouri to do so," he said.

Treece said he hopes this program will bring comfort to families who struggle with opioid use.

"I hope to provide some relief to those families that have either lost a child to an overdose or to those that become addicted to these pain killers. A lot of times there are legal prescriptions being misused and we need to make sure  there's just another protection we can put into place," he said.

Treece said he hopes the program will pick up within the next couple of months.