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story.lead_photo.caption Governor Parson signs a bill into law Monday creating a statewide drug monitoring program. Coach Jim Marshall, left, receives the first signed copy of the bill in honor of his son, Cody. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman

Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation creating the Joint Oversight Task Force for Prescription Drug Monitoring on Monday evening, making Missouri the last state in the nation to implement a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.

SB 63, sponsored by Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Scott City, creates a task force — made up of members from the state Board of Registration for Healing Arts, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Nursing and the Missouri Dental Board — to select a bid from a vendor to operate a prescription drug monitoring program for schedule 2, 3 and 4 controlled substances in the state. The act takes effect Aug. 28.

St. Louis County Department of Public Health's prescription drug monitoring program incorporates 75 participating jurisdictions and covers 85 percent of the state's population. The program, according to the legislation, will be required to cease operation after the statewide vendor is chosen and available for use.

Parson said the legislation was long overdue.

"This is just another tool that we're going to be able to use to help us fight when it comes to opioids, when it comes to the law enforcement community, when it comes to the medical community, and how we do that better," Parson said.

Some legislators expressed concerns over the privacy of patient information when debating the bill.

According to the legislation, the vendor will be responsible for patient dispensation information collection and maintenance, and will be required to operate under rules and regulations created by the oversight task force. The vendor can maintain patient information for up to three years.

Patient dispensation information collected by the vendor can be accessed statewide by prescribers, dispensers and other health care providers, and is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

Rehder filed legislation calling for a prescription drug monitoring program every year she was in the Missouri House, starting in 2013. In her first year in the Senate, the legislation made it through both chambers and was signed into law.

Rehder said the prescription drug monitoring program will help medical professionals access medication history, which could help prevent dangerous prescription combinations and mistakes.

"It also produces much better outcomes for people fighting the opioid epidemic," Rehder said. "That's why this is a cornerstone, and we've been seeing that across the nation for many years, that this is a cornerstone in the fight against the opioid epidemic and getting people back to healthy, happy lifestyles."

Rep. Travis Smith, R-District 155, carried the bill through the House and said he continually heard support from the pharmacists and doctors he spoke to about the legislation.

Parson, Rehder and Smith were joined by supporters of the legislation, including two parents whose children died from opioid overdose.

According to the St. Louis County Prescription Drug Monitoring Program's 2019 annual report, about one in four residents of participating jurisdictions received a controlled substance prescription in 2019.

Of all schedule 2 through 4 controlled substances, opioids were the most frequently prescribed drug type and made up about 43 percent of controlled substance prescriptions in participating jurisdictions, according to the report.

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