Greitens writes Missouri his own prescription for drug monitoring — and it’s a placebo

Saying he was tired of waiting for legislators to end Missouri’s pariah status as the only state without a prescription drug–monitoring program, Gov. Eric Greitens created one by executive order on Monday. He directed the Department of Health and Senior Services to build a database to track prescriptions and purchases of controlled substances, including opioids.

His action, announced with the governor’s usual flourish, landed with the clang of one of those overloaded dumbbells the former Navy SEAL favors in his much-publicized workout routines.

Critics — including the Missouri Foundation for Health, the Missouri State Medical Association and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill — point out that Greitens’ order doesn’t specifically allow doctors and pharmacists to access the information. So it would do little to stop addicts and dealers from “doctor shopping” for their supplies. Which, after all, is the problem.

Lawmakers in Greitens’ own Republican party griped about not having been consulted. Rolling out the ultimate insult, some compared him to former President Barack Obama — often criticized for preempting Congress with executive orders.

Democrats in the General Assembly wondered whether Greitens’ order was even constitutional. It orders the spending of money without legislative approval.

By the end of the day, about the only person praising Greitens’ action was his arch-nemesis, GOP Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph. Schaaf is the main reason Missouri hasn’t already created a monitoring program; he opposes it on privacy grounds. Greitens’ watered-down attempt, Schaaf said, suited him just fine.

“It’s a fake prescription-monitoring program,” Schaaf tells me. But, he adds cheerfully, “Now that the Great SEAL [Schaaf’s name for Greitens, who is — did you know? — a former Navy SEAL] has done his version of a prescription drug–monitoring program, there’s no need for further legislation. That’s great. We’re done.”

Greitens surprised just about everybody when he announced his executive order during a news conference in St. Louis Monday morning. Legislative leaders said he hadn’t consulted with them. Healthcare groups were also in the dark. This is very Greitens-like — he prefers telling everyone how much he knows to listening to people who actually know something. The result, in this instance, is a useless prescription drug–monitoring program that, as Schaaf hopes, may prevent Missouri from participating in a broader platform.

The executive order is the governor’s latest insult to legislators — those elected persons known in Greitens-land as “corrupt career politicians.” Many had speculated that the governor would call a third special legislative session to get a prescription drug–monitoring program passed. But apparently even he is getting sick of that approach.

The second legislative session, which Greitens called to burnish his anti-abortion credentials, has been dragging on for weeks. Recently the “liberal media” — how the governor regards every news outlet other than his personal Facebook page — has reported that the expenses of the session are pushing $150,000, and edging close to the amount that a modest pay raise considered by lawmakers earlier this year would have cost. Greitens pitched a fit about the proposed raise.

The same dirty-commie media has noted that, despite the governor’s crowing over a so-called jobs bill passed in this summer’s first special session, there has been no observable progress in opening the plants in southeast Missouri that were the subject of the legislation.

But Greitens — as he continually reminds us — is a man of action. As he said when announcing his executive order, he told the legislature to get something done this session on prescription-drug monitoring. “They failed,” he said. “So today, we are taking action. Today, we are doing something.”

Something has been done, but it’s meaningless.

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