JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Prescription drug abuse is taking center stage at the Missouri State Capitol today as the state Senate and state House will consider legislation related to the growing epidemic.
Missouri remains the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program.
Senate Bill 231 is sponsored by Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan and would establish the state's first "Narcotics Control Act."
"Right now, we have a patchwork or county and municipal monitoring programs that are doing this work," Sen. Schatz said in a statement. "If folks have privacy concerns - then they should support a statewide approach that is safe, secure and successful in combating this epidemic."
Additionally, a House Bill 736 would establish the 911 Good Samaritan Act, which "gives immunity from criminal liability to a person who seeks medical assistance for a person experiencing a drug-related or alcohol overdose."
In addition to legislation at the state level, the City of Columbia has taken steps to establish a Good Samaritan Act and a prescription drug monitoring program of its own.
Back in September, Mayor Brian Treece asked the city and county's health department to review the possibility of a prescription drug monitoring program in Columbia. One month later, the Columbia City Council held a discussion on whether to adopt a Good Samaritan law for the city.
Councilman Michael Trapp says it would cost about $13,000 to implement a prescription drug monitoring program in Boone County.
"When you look at the health implications of the number of opioid deaths it's a really small amount of money," Trapp says.
St. Louis County already has both a prescription drug monitoring program and a Good Samaritan law in place. Councilman Trapp says he has met with Columbia Police to figure out how best to adopt the St. Louis ordinance to the laws in Columbia.
"In general all of our approaches are trying to move away from substance abuse disorders as being a criminal justice issue and treating it as a public health issue," Trapp explains.
One prevention specialist compares a drug monitoring program to stop signs and speed limits.
"Does everyone observe those? No," Heather Harlan, Prevention and Treatment Specialist, Phoenix Programs says. "There are some people who will speed and run stop signs no matter what you do, but most people will observe those and it can make the speeding rates go down and making our community healthier and safer."
Councilman Trapp says he hopes to have more on the proposed legislation in March.