Thursday, November 2, 2017

Q&A #1: Are We Making Progress in the Battle Against Opioid Addictions?

Short answer: With attention finally focused, and a lack of partisan posturing, look for transformative policy changes ahead.


First – start with this statistic from the Washington Post… Overdoses from prescription drugs have killed 200,000 people since 2000, and more than 500,000 have succumbed to overdoses of all kinds during the same period. Drug deaths are expected to exceed 60,000, a record, when final numbers are available for 2016. As the crisis has evolved, heroin and fentanyl are responsible for an ever larger share of the deaths.


For years this growing epidemic has been largely ignored, but with the sheer magnitude of carnage now being seen and reported, it’s mind-blowing. And it’s creating something unique for our time – an issue which can truly be bi-partisan.

At the federal level, there are some big ideas being proposed.  See the Washington Post article here.

Pull Quote: The commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), called for expanding drug courts — an alternative system that tries to channel substance abusers accused of crimes into treatment — into all 93 federal court jurisdictions. Currently they are in less than half… The panel also wants to mandate that providers check prescription drug monitoring databases to ensure that users aren't “doctor shopping” for prescription drugs. In some states, use of that technology is voluntary… the government must adjust the way insurance rates are set, saying they currently encourage doctors to use opioid painkillers rather than physical therapy or other treatments that do not involve drugs. Similarly it recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services eliminate questions about pain from satisfaction surveys that are used rate hospital performance. Physicians have said they feel pressure to treat pain aggressively, often with drugs, so they are not penalized on such surveys. The start of the opioid epidemic in the early 2000s is widely blamed on overprescribing of opioid medications.


US Senator Claire McCaskill’s statement: “I’m a former prosecutor who started one of the nation’s first drug courts, so I’m thrilled to see recommendations for dramatically expanding them. I’m also fully supportive of efforts to refocus patient surveys toward outcomes and away from pain levels, as I believe that’s contributed to over-prescribing these powerful drugs. These recommendations now need to be followed by a bipartisan effort to secure additional resources—and if President Trump is looking for an ally in Congress to help make that a priority, he’s got one in me.”

Her Senate rival, Attorney General Josh Hawley, meanwhile announced this week he’s expanding his investigation that companies willingly benefited from the epidemic.  See it here.  Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley on Tuesday said he's demanding documents from three major opioid distributors that he claims didn't report suspiciously large shipments of prescription drugs. Hawley said companies are required by law to report suspicious opioid shipments, but there's evidence to suggest the distributors he's investigating looked the other way instead of raising alarms.

Meanwhile in Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ administration is making it a priority as well.  From the recent Department of Labor email blast… At the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations we believe workplaces can be a powerful place to raise awareness and reverse these devastating trends. We are creating the resources businesses need to join the fight. Visit to find: Information for communicating with insurers; Training materials for businesses to educate the workforce;    Workplace posters to educate and raise awareness…


What’s lacking so far… a significant commitment of federal – or state – money to combat the epidemic.  Will there be a bipartisan package to fund services for those afflicted?


Also the MMJ Angle

McCaskill’s primary opponent says medical marijuana could help with the opioid crisis.  See it here.


Gov’s Office Moves

With the exit of Caleb Jones from the deputy chief of staff position, a few shuffles were made in the governor’s office yesterday.

First, Nick Maddux is the new deputy chief of staff.  He was on Catherine Hanaway’s campaign initially during the 2016 gubernatorial race.  He’s been serving as “senior advisor” in the Greitens administration, so is presumably familiar with portfolio he will inherit. Don’t look for a big change in the role of the deputy chief of staff position.

Perhaps more interesting though was the move of Jennae Neustadt to a newly created position of something along the lines of “director of management and budget.”

One source says that “Jennae is going to continue to serve as Legislative Director until the Governor selects her replacement. When that happens, she will take on a new role within his office as the lead on budgetary matters. He has realized that he needs a seasoned hand within his office managing budgetary items.”

Before joining the Greitens Team, Neustadt staffed for Sen. Bob Onder.


Fewer Gubby Appointments = Better Government?

Governor Eric Greitens unveiled the report from his task force on reducing the number of appointed commissions and boards in Missouri.  Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson headed up the effort.  See the report here.

The main thrust of the recommendations is to consolidate Missouri’s many boards. Among the Agricultural boards, for example, the task force recommends axing the Wine Board, Cotton Board and the Dairy Board and putting them with other interests into a big MO Agriculture Board.  If it happened it would eliminate about 30 appointed board members.

As with the “No MO red tape” effort, there seems to be a real focus from Team Greitens on showing some numeric progress in “cutting” things.  And the report claims to recommend the cutting of about 450 appointments.

While some might support the citizen participation which these boards enable, the task force thinks “an overabundance of boards and commissions has increased costs for businesses and created unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.”


October Revenue

It looks like the state had a solid month of tax receipts in October. Individual income tax receipts were up nearly 8% offsetting weakness in the sales tax.  Together with lower refunds, October 2017 was close to 9% above October 2016, bringing the fiscal year to date number to + 4.3%.


Help Wanted

Nicole Galloway for Missouri seeks Finance Assistant/Call Time Manager.  “This position directly reports to the campaign Finance Director and essential duties include: Managing candidate’s call time, including queuing calls, entering call results, and preparing call time reports for the Finance Director; Assisting with fundraising events, including invitations, follow up calls, collecting contributions, and thank you notes; Donor research and database management…”  See it here.


New Committees

Mike Labozzetta formed a candidate committee (Mike Labozzetta For State Rep) to run as a Democrat in House 99.  The current incumbent is Republican Rep. Jean Evans.


Today’s Events

From Mary Scruggs’ indispensable calendar:

Reps. Diane Franklin, Marsha Haefner, Shelia Solon Reception – Nick & Jake’s on Main – KC – 5PM.

Rep. Nick Schroer Reception – Tani Sushi Bistro – St. L – 5:30PM.


Lobbyists Registrations

Alex Eaton, Rebecca Lohmann, Danny Pfeifer, and Gregory Porter added Omnigo Software.

Tom Carter deleted Integrity Home Care Inc.


$5K+ Contributions

KC Transportation Transit and Tourism Committee (KC3T) - $10,000 from Country Club Plaza.

Missouri Senate Campaign Committee - $10,000 from Friends of Todd Richardson.

Missouri Senate Campaign Committee - $10,000 from Kansas City Power & Light.

Missouri Senate Campaign Committee - $25,000 from Ketchmark & McCreight PC.



Happy birthday to former Rep. Susan Carlson, and Richard Craighead.