Calling the opioid epidemic a “modern plague,” Governor Eric Greitens asked Missourians Thursday to join the fight against the issue. Thursday’s comments at an opioid summit in Springfield came just days after he signed an executive order establishing a prescription drug monitoring program.
Greitens, who lost a cousin last year to a heroin overdose, implored community members and advocacy organizations to step up their efforts.
“What is going to help us to move forward is if we can connect the tremendous heart and tremendous passion of people who have seen this crisis, who’ve been affected by this crisis – and then connect that with positive action in our communities – the fact is together we can save lives.”
More than half of all overdose deaths in the U.S. involve a prescription or illicit opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It killed over 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record.
Greene County alone recorded 31.6 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 in 2015, compared with 8.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2000.
The governor says that for every 100,000 Missourians there are 89,000 prescriptions for narcotics. To reduce these numbers, Greitens says the state is introducing the Generation Rx Program in schools at an early level “To educate children from day one about the dangers of opioids.”
“We’re also gonna be working to require doctors who prescribe opioids to get trained in pain management. And we’re putting guidelines in place so that every prescriber is protecting health and not accidentally promoting addiction,” said Greitens.
The prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP, will collect who is writing opioid prescriptions and dispensing the drugs. However, unlike other states where pharmacists and doctors can see that type of data, the information can only be accessed by Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services. Greitens established the program by executive order after legislators failed to agree on a broad program during the recently concluded regular session.
Thursday’s opioid summit in Springfield marked the first of nine events planned throughout the state on the topic in the coming weeks and months. Local health, law enforcement and workforce development officials also shared perspective on the issue.