(St.Joseph,MO) Findings from an investigative Senate report confirms that there have been over 1.6billion doses of opioids funneled into Missouri over the last 6 years.
“I was really struck by how this was happening everywhere in our state. I realized that we needed to do everything we could from an investigative standpoint to get at this problem in terms of the manufacturing, and the distribution of opioids,” Senator Claire McCaskill said.
According to the report there have been enough opioids brought into Missouri to give each resident 260 pills.
"It is all over our state. It isn't just in one part of the state, that is why it's so important that authorities use this report to do a better job of going after these suspicious shipments of opioids into Missouri," McCaskill said.
Nancy King, Health Educator of the St.Joseph Health Department, said there is a wide range of people becoming addicted to opioids.
“You have people that maybe have become addicted just from receiving opioid painkillers from a surgery, versus the drug user on the street that has maybe graduated up to heroin,” King said.
The report ranks Buchanan County as one of the top locations in the state for opioid distribution per capita, but King said the volume of prescriptions might have more to do with a lack of rural medical facilities.
"I hate to speculate, but when you look at northwest Missouri we are [ranked] one of the higher counties [in the study] in Missouri, but it's probably attributed to [the fact that]. We have the regional hospital and a lot of medical care services provided here in Buchanan County that other citizens in outlying counties will come to St.Joseph for treatment," King said.
In November of 2017 Buchanan County filed a lawsuit against 22 major opioid manufacturers and distributors, including the McKesson Corporation who was named as one of the top three opioid distributors in the report.
"We made a decision at the county commission that we were no longer going to stand by and let this type of thing continue. That's why we filed a lawsuit to take the first step,” Presiding Commissioner Harry Roberts said. “We were the first county in the state of Missouri to file a lawsuit in federal court. We are just not going to accept illegal drug trafficking of any sort in Buchanan County."
Currently Missouri is one of few states that does not have a prescription monitoring program, which King said makes it more difficult to monitor how drugs are being distributed from county to county.
“If there were a comprehensive, statewide prescription drug monitoring database that would probably help as far as trying to keep people from shopping from one pharmacy to the next,” King said. “Even though St. Joseph may have one, the next county over may not, so it makes it difficult in a state where there is no comprehensive system in place.”
The St.Joseph Health Department has also developed an opioid task force to help combat the crisis from multiple angles.
"It's a multifaceted problem, and it's going to take a multifaceted approach to deal with the issue," King said.
The opioid task force will have its next meeting on Thursday, August 9. For more information on the task force or more information about resources for opioid addiction, contact the St.Joseph Health Department at 816-271-4636
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