ST. CHARLES COUNTY - It's an effort to stop drug abuse, and ultimately, fatal overdoses. Now, St. Charles is the latest local county to consider a prescription drug monitoring program.
The proposal, which is sponsored by County Executive Steve Ehlmann and Councilman Joe Brazil, was introduced Monday night. St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar told the county council that Missouri is the only state still without a statewide database to monitor prescription drugs.
“Missouri is known, affectionately, as Americas drug store. That’s a moniker were not proud of and that’s a moniker we need to do something about,” he said.
“Through this program, we will be able to stop doctor shopping. We will be able to monitor, the best we can, those people whose addictions have gotten the better of them and to shop around just to get more prescription painkillers.”
Under this proposal, the county department of health would run the program. St. Louis City and St. Louis County passed similar drug monitoring programs earlier this year. If the St. Charles County proposal passes, county officials plan to work with the same vendor to keep the monitoring within one regional system.
During Monday night’s meeting, some resident’s questioned the proposal, citing privacy concerns.
“How will St. Charles county safeguard my information?” asked one woman who lives in O’Fallon, Missouri. “How will they keep my neighbor, who works for the health department, from accessing my information, and sharing it with others?”
One local family supports the drug monitoring programs.
Ellis and Patti Fitzwalter lost their son, Michael, in 2014. He was prescribed several medications as a teenager for behavioral and psychological issues, and later began to abuse the drugs. His addictions eventually led to heroin.
“We had no clue, we were totally blindsided,” his mother said. “And it was such a shock to hear that word – heroin.”
After Michael’s death, the Fitzwalters became involved in local support groups. After attending several “Walking for Wellness” events in St. Charles, the North County couple decided to expand the effort into their neighborhoods. This summer, they’ve led walks and met with other families impacted by heroin addiction.
Ellis is disappointed state lawmakers haven’t passed a statewide drug monitoring program, but he is optimistic more counties will take action.
“If we can’t do it at the state level, let’s do it one county at a time and make it a state level [effort],” he said.
Until then, they continue to share their son’s story – hoping it will spare at least one other family from experience the same kind of loss.