ST. CHARLES, MO. - Legal battle lines were drawn today.
On one side, St. Charles County and on the other a government watchdog group challenging a county program for reducing drug abuse.
The group is called "United for Missouri" and it's a nonprofit that watches for what they consider over-reaching invasions of privacy.
Today they filed suit in state court against St. Charles County's prescription drug monitoring ordinance called The Narcotics Control Act.
"The opiate addiction is a very real crisis and problem, this is just the wrong solution to it," said Carl Bearden, executive director for United for Missouri.
The group's lawsuit claims that collecting prescription information and personal data are unreasonable searches and seizures that violate the U.S. and Missouri constitutions and state laws.
“I think it would be an unwarranted search. There is no warrant involved in this," Bearden said.
He went on to say that the Director of the St. Charles County Health Department would have access to data and is charged with overseeing the database that organizes it.
But St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar said the ordinance prevents the abuse of medications because it identifies people who doctor shop to fuel their addictions.
“We want to prevent people who are addicts from getting prescriptions when they really shouldn't get them. Law enforcement or government is really not going to be able to access this information unless a judge signs off on a search warrant,” Lohmar said.
“The idea behind the monitoring database is not to provide privileged healthcare information to the government or the law enforcement, the idea is to provide information to doctors and pharmacies,” said Lohmar.
Lohmar concedes the County Health Department would be able to access the system but says that is where any alleged government intrusion would end.
“We want to prevent people who are addicts from getting prescriptions when they really shouldn’t get them. Law enforcement or government is really not going to be able to access this information unless a judge signs off on a search warrant," he said.
Lohmar went on to say that Missouri is way behind a bevy of states with similar data collections statutes.
United for Missouri said it chose to file the lawsuit in St. Charles County first but it believes all similar ordinances are unconstitutional.
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