CLAYTON, MO (KPLR) – The critical work to fight drug abuse in Missouri continues as more counties implement their own prescription drug monitoring system.
Missouri, as you may know, is the only state without a drug monitoring program, but some elected leaders say they hope these small steps will one day lead to a big change.
For the last several years, a bill to implement a drug monitoring system in Missouri is introduced and every year it's shot down.
"And once again we are the only state that doesn't have this," said St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.
But in the past year, different counties have taken the serious matter into their own hands one by one.
"We formed one in St. Louis County and our database is friendly toward collaboration, so we have been joined by the City of St. Louis, we've been joined by Jackson County, by St. Charles County, and just as we announced today, we've been joined by Ste. Genevieve as well,” Stenger said.
A monitoring system is aimed at informing doctors and pharmacists when similar prescriptions were recently written or filed.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, four out of five heroin users moved to heroin after using prescription drugs.
"When you consider that over the last seven years we've had nearly 3,000 deaths in the St. Louis region alone that really underscores just how serious the problem is," Stenger said.
It's a scary statistic that Stenger can relate to.
"I certainly want to avoid the pain that my family experienced as a result of the death of my nephew, Mitchell, and I want every family in St. Louis County to avoid that at all cost," he said.
Lawmakers on both sides of the issue have long debated why the state should or should not have such a system. Supporters said it would help get painkillers off the street and decrease opiate overdoses.
"In states where you see data bases like this one enacted there is a dramatic reduction in deaths as a result of opioid and heroin overdoses," Stenger said.
And while there wasn't a complete opposition, some lawmakers believed the database wouldn’t stop people determined to feed their addictions.
"One of the big pushes that we've had with our partners agencies is to get help where it's needed; it's a prevalent problem everywhere in the United States,” he said.
The database is inexpensive and each county is baring that cost.