WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is today focusing on the challenges facing the St. Louis area, which has one of the highest rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths in Missouri, during Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.
St. Louis has the highest rates of hospital utilization for opioid overuse in the state. From 2005-2014, St. Louis saw a 162.6 percent increase in hospitalization due to opioid use—from 4,466 hospitalizations to 11,726. St. Louis sees more than 20 drug related deaths per 100,000 residents, putting it in the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) highest categorization for overdose deaths. In addition, St. Louis area hospitals have also seen dramatic increases in the numbers of newborn babies treated for opioid addiction and withdrawal.
Overall, Missouri saw 1,067 drug-related deaths in 2014, an almost 400 percent increase since 1999.
“We’ve got people who care deeply about St. Louis, fighting to do everything they can in the face of obstruction by the state legislature, and we’ve got to honor their commitment by continuing to draw attention to this epidemic,” McCaskill said, referring to the city’s creation of a prescription drug monitoring program after state lawmakers have repeatedly failed to create a statewide program. Missouri remains the only state without a monitoring program. “The epicenter of this epidemic is in St. Louis and the pain it’s causing families and communities is heartbreaking.”
Earlier today, McCaskill launched a resource and information page on her Senate website to provide Missourians with an overview of the epidemic both nationally and in Missouri.
Keeping up her fight against the growing opioid epidemic, McCaskill recently joined a bipartisan effort in the Senate to urge the Medicaid program to expand coverage for those suffering from substance abuse. On her recent tour of Missouri with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, McCaskill highlighted the need for change in Missouri law to create a prescription drug monitoring program. Among Midwestern states, Missouri ranks number one in the rate of prescription opioids sold in the region. It is the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program. McCaskill also traveled to Jefferson City, Mo. earlier this year to hold a field hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and highlight the national epidemic of increased opioid addiction, abuse, and overdose deaths.
A motion shaped by McCaskill was successfully included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—federal legislation that was recently signed into law which provides resources to states to combat the number of prescription drug and heroin deaths across the country—which enables St. Louis County’s network of county-level prescription drug monitoring programs to be eligible to apply for federal resources. The language McCaskill successfully added would allow local governments in Missouri with monitoring programs to apply for a new Department of Health and Human Services grant to establish, maintain, or improve their local drug monitoring programs. Without this provision, eligibility for this federal grant funding would have been limited to states.