PALMYRA, Mo. -- A proposal to participate in a prescription drug monitoring program has been put on hold in Marion County.
The Marion County Health Department Board decided last week to halt plans to draft an ordinance that would authorize the department to team up with some other Missouri counties in a prescription drug monitoring program. A program would allow doctors to tap into a statewide database to see whether patients they serve have obtained narcotics from other physicians.
The board acted after receiving a legal opinion that health departments in Class 3 Missouri counties have no authority in the regulation of controlled substances.
Then on Monday -- after hearing about the board's decision -- the Marion County Commission agree and put the issue on hold.
The county and the Health Department had agreed earlier this year to work together on a plan to participate in a St. Louis-based prescription drug monitoring program for two years at no cost through a grant. However, an attorney who advises the county on legal matters determined that Marion County wouldn't be eligible to participate as a Class 3 county -- unlike St. Louis County, which launched the program because it has special authority as a charter county.
"It was quite surprising to me," Presiding Commission Lyndon Bode said Monday after he shared a letter from the Health Department explaining why the issue was being shelved.
Bode said the County Commission has no choice but to remain on the sidelines in effort to monitor prescription drugs, even though "we know (opioid abuse) is a serious problem." He said the commission might revisit the issue if the Missouri Legislature passes a law authorizing Class 3 counties to participate in a monitoring program.
Western District Commissioner Steve Begley said he's glad the county isn't proceeding. He said he had some concerns that the program could violate health privacy laws.
"We could be opening ourselves up to lawsuits," Begley said.
The commission also renewed its commitment for two more years to participate in the Missouri Farmers Care program. Under the program, participating counties can earn a designation as an "agri-ready county."
Marion County was the 12th Missouri county to sign up for the program two years ago. Fifty counties are now participating, with several more pending approval, said Ashley McCarty of Kirksville, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care.
McCarty presented the commission with four "agri-ready county" signs that will be posted along Marion County roads.
She said the goal of the program is "to help, welcome and encourage agricultural opportunities and business in the county; to build agricultural literacy; and then to support the ag stewardship that's going on on our farms and ranches every day."
The commission authorized county Transportation Department to proceed with a plan to blacktop a 500-foot section of County Road 334 leading to the Doyle Manufacturing facility along U.S. 61/24 north of Palmyra.
The commission also heard about plans by Sheriff Jimmy Shinn to acquire three new squad cars under a three-year lease arrangement at a cost of $118,183.
The commission also supported Shinn's request to get 13 new portable radios for use by deputies.