BERKELEY − St. Louis County’s prescription drug monitoring program has been expanded to help physicians evaluate how often they prescribe opioid painkillers compared to best practices and also identify and access resources for addicts.
He said new information added to the database will help him find places to refer patients in the community for additional treatment. But access to care is still a challenge.
“Even though that’s gotten better with some of the tools we have in the St. Louis area, not everybody has access to get people into treatment within two to three days,” he said.
Ben Westhoff, a local author of “Fentanyl, Inc.,” a new book about the synthetic opioid at the center of the epidemic, said it’s good that the county expanded its monitoring program but the overprescription of painkillers is no longer driving the crisis.
“The opioid crisis is increasingly being fueled by fentanyl, which is being cut into drugs like heroin, black market prescription pills, meth, cocaine,” he said.
St. Louis County had 307 opioid-related deaths in 2018, up from 236 the previous year. St. Louis city had 315 deaths in 2018, up from 254.
In 2018, there were about 300 nonfatal overdoses reported each monthin St. Louis and St. Louis County, which public health officials say is a good predictor for mortality. Next month, St. Louis County will begin tracking people who were treated in the emergency room for overdose.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said a caseworker will try to offer them the help they need, such as naloxone, the overdose reversing drug commonly sold as Narcan.
“Getting Narcan in the hands of family members of someone who is likely to overdose is the single best thing you can do,” Page said. “And then getting them referred to treatment.”