Springfield, Mo. — “If the legislators continue to have an impasse, it is up to our local leaders to use the funding available to make something happen,” said Lacey Nunnally, social work program director at Evangel University.
The nonmedical use of opioids has been declared an epidemic. Across the nation, 49 states have adopted what’s called a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, or PDMP.
“This year a bipartisan group of legislators tried and, unfortunately, failed once again to pass a PDMP for the State of Missouri,” said Nunnally.
“A state-wide program is best for consistency, but this is better than nothing,” she continued, speaking of the current efforts on the part of the Springfield City Council and Greene County Commission.
Nunnally and her students have worked toward passage of the legislation in Missouri for three years.
“While we are disappointed that PDMP legislation did not pass this year in Missouri, we are optimistic that Rep. Rehder will continue her legislative efforts in this area,” Nunnally added. “I am already working on how we will support PDMP legislation in the 2018 session.”
A grant-funded effort
A year-long research and awareness project by Evangel University social work majors provided support for the introduction of the Narcotics Control Act in the Missouri General Assembly during the last session.
The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Holly Rehder from Sikeston and had bipartisan support in its call for the monitoring of certain prescribed controlled substances.
Dr. Donna Washburn, chair of Evangel’s Behavioral and Social Sciences Department, credits Professor Nunnally for successfully writing and securing an $8,150 grant, calling it, “significant in the impact it can have on our students and community.”
The policy-practice grant was awarded to Evangel’s Social Work Program by the Council for Social Work Education, the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States and its territories.
“The student’s research and advocacy efforts have included conducting presentations about the dangers of opioids at eight different agencies, training at the state level about PDMPs, and attending a House committee hearing on HB90, the Narcotics Control Act,” said Nunnally.
In addition, 18 social work majors hosted a town hall meeting during the spring semester with 90 people in attendance.
Speakers included Tressa Moyle, the director of Cox Center for Addiction; Sgt. Bryan DiSylvester, Springfield Police Department; and several social work majors from Evangel who shared facts and personal stories about opioids.
Students continued their advocacy by holding a community discussion about opioids and the need for PDMP, and by continuing to visit state legislators in Jefferson City.
“Their work goes right to the heart of our mission, with service that impacts society,” said Dr. Sheri Phillips, vice president for student development at Evangel University.
In March, a group from Evangel was invited to speak at Speak Hard, a state-wide youth prevention conference held each spring in Jefferson City.
The annual event educates high school students on the prevention of drug abuse and addiction, along with other health concerns.
“The Evangel presentation focused on website development and creating a grassroots campaign around a social problem,” said Alyssa Wadlow, project manager and social work major at Evangel.
Last year, the EU Social Work majors created a website about opioid use in the state of Missouri.
Adding to their lobby skills, the students opened a Twitter account, an Instagram account, and they post regularly on the EU Social Work Facebook page.
The need for a PDMP
“An increase in prescription opioid pain relievers is challenging not only our Springfield community, but also social service providers,” said Nunnally. “Families seeking behavioral and medical treatment have typically lost all their assets and are headed toward a life in poverty if assistance is not provided.”
“Rep. Rehder’s legislation would allow the State to partner with a national database to assist doctors and pharmacists in identifying those who are filling multiple prescriptions of pain medication in Missouri,” said Dr. Washburn.
The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) gives medical professionals a powerful tool for reducing the abuse, addiction and diversion of opioid painkillers and other prescription drugs.
According to Washburn, this is important because prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing drug problems in the United States and has been classified as an epidemic by the CDC.