According to the Springfield News Leader in JEFFERSON CITY — Springfield-area lawmakers threw their support behind a bill in the Missouri House on Thursday that would make it easier for the public to get a drug, naloxone, that can prevent heroin overdoses.
Another piece of legislation aimed at addressing drug abuse has stalled, however. That bill, which would create a prescription drug monitoring program, never made it to the House floor this week despite anticipation that it would. Missouri is the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program.
The bill increasing naloxone access, which passed through the chamber on a 154 to 2 vote and now heads to the Senate, would allow members of the general public to buy the drug with a prescription. This would allow people to administer the drug to a friend or loved one suffering an overdose from heroin or other opioid, lawmakers said. Naloxone is most commonly known by the brand name Narcan.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Steve Lynch, R-Waynesville, said a family member or friend typically could respond faster than emergency medical workers, who currently are allowed to carry the drug.
“Anything we can do to help save a life, we should do that,” said Rep. Jeffrey Messenger, R-Republic. “Maybe someone wakes up from an overdose now and maybe goes to try and do rehab.”
Messenger characterized the rise of heroin and prescription drug abuse in southwest Missouri and throughout the Show-Me State as an “epidemic.”
His comments echoed those made by other lawmakers and are further supported by a Centers for Disease Control report, issued last summer, that said heroin use is on the rise across the nation.
That report found heroin use has become more prevalent among women and the middle class, and many of its users came to the narcotic after having first become addicted to prescription drugs. Furthermore, the CDC found drug overdoses across the country have risen to “epidemic” proportions during the past 15 years, with deaths from opioid overdoses up 200 percent.
In 2015, there were at least 13 overdoses caused by heroin in Greene County, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. Nine more cases from last year are pending, the office said. There were six heroin-related deaths in the county in 2014 and just one in 2013.
Similar arguments have been made in support of the prescription drug monitoring bill, which has passed through the House by wide margins in recent years. But the bill has had a more difficult time in the Senate, where it has faced opposition from some lawmakers due to privacy concerns. The bill would create a prescription drug database that opponents have argued could be hacked.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, who has been a strong critic of proposals to create a drug monitoring database in the past, this year has filed his own bill to create a monitoring program — but only if voters approve the plan at an election.
The House bill’s sponsor, Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, told the Kansas City Star on Thursday she needs to “educate my colleagues on the reality of this bill” and correct false information.
Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, who serves in the party leadership, said he had helped whip votes for the legislation in recent days and had anticipated it would be taken up on the House floor this week.
After the House convened Thursday, Austin said Rehder might adjust the bill to make it more palatable to opponents.
One possible change would be trimming the list of drugs monitored under the program, Austin said. The program already is focused on drugs that put people at risk of addiction, Rehder has said.