The Missouri House again will weigh bills aimed at fighting intravenous and prescription drug abuse, as well as a bipartisan effort to fight a stigma against those infected with HIV.
Representative Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) has prefiled legislation to legalize programs that give drug abusers clean needles, and for the seventh consecutive year has filed legislation to make statewide a monitoring program for drug prescriptions. She and Representative Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis) have also filed bills to change Missouri law that criminalizes exposing someone to HIV.
Supporters say needle exchange programs have been operating in the state for years, and don’t entice people to start abusing intravenous drugs. Rather, they say, they ensure abusers aren’t transmitting diseases through dirty needles and it puts them in contact with medical providers who can facilitate getting them into treatment.
Several such programs already operate in Missouri, though they are doing so against the letter of the law. House Bill 1486 would exempt those programs from the crime of “unlawful delivery of drug paraphernalia.”
House Bill 1693, dubbed the “Narcotics Control Act,” would make statewide a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) like that maintained by the St. Louis County Health Department. That program covers about 87-percent of Missouri’s population, in just over half its counties. Rehder said that program has had great results but the whole state must be covered.
A PDMP is a database that physicians and pharmacists could use to track pill purchases and pharmacy visits, in an effort to find those who are potentially filling multiple prescriptions to support abuse. Such proposals have met stiff opposition in past years, generally from those who say creating such a database would put sensitive medical information in danger of being breached.
House Bills 1691 (Rehder) and 1692 (McCreery) would reduce or eliminate the penalties for knowingly exposing someone with HIV. Backers say the current penalties are too steep – the punishment for knowingly exposing to HIV someone who contracts the disease is on par with those for murder, rape, and forcible kidnapping.
Supporters say the harsh penalties are actually helping the spread of HIV by discouraging people from getting tested.
Both bills have been filed for the session that begins January 8.
Reps. Rehder and McCreery and advocates discuss the legislation in the video below: