A regional approach to prescription drug abuse

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Recently, I had the opportunity to testify before the Jackson County legislature on the topic of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). As many in our region already know, Missouri has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the country to not have a PDMP, the single most impactful tool to reduce the supply of prescription drugs in the hands of addicts.

An estimated 180,000 individuals in Missouri are addicted to prescription painkillers, and drug overdose deaths in the Kansas City area have quadrupled over the past decade. After five years of debate in the legislature, it is time to act locally and enact a proven public health tool that has been used successfully in 49 states.

Following the lead of St. Louis County, the Jackson County Legislature recently approved Resolution 19196 – the first step in establishing a regional PDMP. Other cities and counties in the region are in the early stages of joining Jackson County, and Kansas already has a working PDMP that would be able to share data with a regional PDMP in Missouri.

A PDMP not only helps reduce the supply of prescription drugs in the hands of addicts, it also improves patient care and helps doctors prescribe prescription painkillers when they are truly needed. Given the new pain management guidelines from the CDC, the rise in opioid addiction, and the increased scrutiny on prescribing, doctors must rely on their instinct and patient relationship to determine the best medication for a patient.  

Without a PDMP, doctors who see a patient for the first time often do not know what medications an individual has been prescribed in the past. Unfortunately, this environment disproportionately affects the poor and individuals that seek treatment in emergency rooms or clinics where they are unable to develop a long-term relationship with their doctor. Research shows that in these cases, minority groups and the poor are less likely to get opioid medications, even when it is clinically indicated. A PDMP would allow these doctors to more confidently prescribe the best medication to a patient, without the fear of enabling an already present, yet concealed, addiction.

A PDMP is not a silver bullet, but one additional tool that can be used to reduce addiction and improve patient care. We still need to address the demand for drugs through the expansion of prevention and treatment efforts. And we will need to expand care for all, including the expansion of Medicaid, to ensure individuals receive quality care before they develop chronic pain as a result of an untreated condition.

Much work still needs to be done, but a regional PDMP is the next logical step in addressing the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. HCF is excited to partner and collaborate with other public health entities to make a regional PDMP happen.

HCF is proud to support the upcoming American Public Square dinner event, The Painful Truth, a candid discussion on opioid use and regulation and whether Missouri should adopt a drug monitoring program. We encourage you to attend and lend your voice to the discussion. Register >>


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Health Reform, Policy

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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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