St. Louis County Resident Cindy O'Neill told the Senate Public Safety committee that she had gotten into a fight with her husband on the day he died. He was, in her opinion, taking too many pills.
But the cocktail of prescription drugs he was taking had all been prescribed. O'Neill said the doctors had told both she and her husband that the medications were safe.
When O'Neill returned home later that day, she found her husband in the backyard. He had killed himself.
She said met with his psychiatrist the following week who told her that her husband was only mildly depressed. The incident, the psychiatrist believed, occurred as a result of the interaction between the drugs he had prescribed and another medication that a different doctor had given. O'Neill said the psychiatrist had not been aware that the other medication had been prescribed.
O'Neill stood before a Senate Public Safety committee on Wednesday, April 20 to testify in favor of a prescription drug monitoring program that she believes could have saved her husbands life.
Missouri is currently the only state without such a program.
"Had he lived anywhere else there was a chance that my husband would still be here with us today," O'Neill said. "But in Missouri, no, the one state that cost him his life in my opinion."
But according to Senator Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, prescription drug monitoring programs do little to save lives.
"PDMPs don't work to reduce deaths from opioids," Schaaf said. "They don't work because when you make it difficult for people to get prescription drugs and they turn to heroin and more people die of heroin."
Schaaf proposed one of two bills heard by the committee today. Though Schaaf does not believe the bill will help save lives, he did say drug monitoring programs can be effective in preventing doctor shopping.
The House version of the bill, for which O'Neill testified in favor, would create a drug monitoring program that allows pharmacists and physicians to access information about what types of medications their patients have been prescribed.
Bill sponsor Holly Rehder, R- Sikeston, said the House version of the bill allows for physicians to work with one another to provide preventative care for their patients.
"That's how we want addiction treated, we want it to be done by our medical professionals on the front end," Rehder said. "This bill allows that because it's your medical professionals that get to see that and make those determinations."
Schaaf sponsored the Senate version of the bill, which puts greater restrictions on who can access the information stored in the drug monitoring program.
In the Senate bill the Department of Health and Senior Services, rather than physicians, becomes primarily responsible for flagging those who are potentially abusing opioid drugs.
Schaaf said the Senate version of the bill takes greater measures to protect the liberty of Missourians.
"It is wrong to take away the liberty of every law abiding citizen to stop a very few from breaking the law," Schaaf said. "Especially when they are putting their own lives at risk by doing so."
But for O'Neill, liberty is a small cost to pay for the life of her husband.
"There is no privacy if a person is dead," O'Neill said. "I would give my privacy if I had my husband back."
The committee did not take a vote on the bills.