Two wins and a sickening defeat

After a decade working in politics, I understand how easy it is to feel jaded, discouraged, and sometimes outright angry toward the whole system. On Friday, May 12 at 6 p.m., the 99th Missouri General Assembly wrapped up its first session, and Missouri remains the only state in the nation without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, much to the frustration of doctors, pharmacists, nurses, law enforcement, public health professionals—and NCADA.

However, due to the efforts of innumerable advocates from across the state and bold, committed legislators, we did see progress related to other substance use policies.

First, we saw the passage of SB139, sponsored by Sen. David Sater, a pharmacist from southwest Missouri.

SB139 creates the “RX Cares for Missouri Program” which allows the Missouri Board of Pharmacy, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Senior Services, to fund “programs or education to promote medication safety or to suppress or prevent prescription drug abuse, misuse, and diversion…”

This investment in prevention is tremendously important, and shows the state’s dedication to addressing opioid use before it even starts.

SB501, also sponsored by Sen. Sater, contains several life-saving initiatives.

SB501 contains a statewide Good Samaritan statute. With language originally proposed by Rep. Steve Lynch, SB501 assures that people who call 911 in a medical emergency will not be arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted, or have their property subject to civil asset forfeiture.

These provisions are designed to make it more likely that people who have a drug or alcohol poisoning will get the medical treatment that they need, and not be abandoned by others due to fear of prosecution.

SB501 also allows the Department of Health and Senior Services to issue a statewide standing order for pharmacies to dispense naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication.

Many smaller pharmacies are having difficulty acquiring a standing order to sell directly to customers. The language in this bill allows pharmacies to circumvent an unnecessary barrier to this life-saving medication.

A third provision of SB501, originally sponsored by Rep. Cora Faith Walker, allows participants in treatment courts, veterans courts, and family courts to engage in medication assisted treatment.

Current law allows courts to prohibit the use of medication as a term of compliance, even though medication assisted treatment has been shown to have far higher rates of maintained recovery.

And finally, SB501 includes language that allows the Missouri Board of Pharmacy to provide funds to assist with drug take back programs.

This is a tremendous tool in reducing the number of opioids available for diversion and misuse. Drug take back programs are recognized as effective, but funding hurdles prevent many pharmacies and other entities from participating.

These two bills represent a fundamental shift in the way communities understand and address the heroin and opioid epidemic, and we are thankful to the Missouri General Assembly for tackling these issues head on.

We also thank all the advocates who went to Jefferson City or contacted their legislators on these important issues. Please continue your advocacy efforts and encourage Gov. Greitens to sign both of these bills into law. Together, we can save lives.

Brandon Costerison is a Public Awareness Specialist at NCADA. This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of The Key newsletter.

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