Jackson County enacts local prescription drug monitoring program

As 2016 winds down, we begin our annual blog series where Health Forward associates review highlights from our work this past year. In our eighth post, Brad Hart details the local movement to create a prescription drug monitoring program. Join us as we look back on 2016. 

As a proud resident of the Kansas City region, I am never surprised to hear that we lead the nation in a particular category. Whether baseball, the arts, internet speed or barbeque prowess, Kansas City is a natural leader. The State of Missouri is a national leader as well, although in this case rather dubiously, as the only state that lacks a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) to prevent the non-medical use and abuse of prescription drugs.  

Non-medical use of prescription drugs is a growing problem both nationally and in the Kansas City region. Particularly, the use of opiate pain relievers has exploded over the past 15 years.  Opiates are highly addictive and as individuals move from medical use to dependency, many will transition from prescription opiates to heroin, which offers a similar high at a lower price and simpler availability.

It might surprise many of you that:

  • 181,000 Missouri residents reported using pain relievers for a nonmedical purpose in 2013 based on estimates from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  • From 2012 to 2015, overdose deaths due to heroin use have more than quadrupled on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area. In some cases, opiates were deemed a contributing factor to the overdose.
  • Opioid overdose is the leading cause of death due to drug poisoning in KCMO.
  • Since 2004, the number of emergency department visits due to opioid abuse has risen over 600%, from 9 visits in 2004 to 64 in 2013.

The consequences of addiction are significant and impact not just an individual but their family and community in the form of high costs, related to emergency room visits, legal system impacts, social service impacts, and low productivity.  

No single tool can solve the problem of opiate addiction, but they all are part of a public health response to the problem.  There are evidence-informed strategies and public health tools that have been effective in reducing the prevalence and impact of opiate addiction including: PDMPs, enhanced prescribing guidelines, education, prevention, and drug takeback programs.

PDMPs have been in operation in many states for multiple decades, and have been proven to be an effective component of a public health approach to addiction.

Health advocates and legislators have introduced bipartisan legislation to enact a PDMP in Missouri, however, staunch opposition has stifled those efforts.

Although a comprehensive statewide PDMP remains the ultimate goal, I am happy to report that this fall the Jackson County Legislature enacted enabling legislation to establish a regional PDMP. Soon, prescribers in all of Jackson County (including all of Kansas City and Independence) will be able to access a secure database that will contain information about controlled substances (pain medication, stimulants, etc.) that have been prescribed to their patients. This database will help doctors provide better care and will help them intervene when there are signs of abuse.

As I look back on the year, I’m proud of the work that so many in our community have done to address the dangers of prescription drug abuse. With continued focus, I believe we will be able to expand and strengthen a PDMP regionally and implement additional evidence-based strategies to address prescription drug abuse.

Read more from authors in this series:

Health Forward Foundation
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