Commission receives CARES Act requests from R-1 school, City of Vienna, assessor

Calzone explains opposition to prescription drug monitoring program

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 9/16/20

VIENNA — It is becoming more of the routine that each week the Maries County Commission is receiving MRPC pre-approved requests for reimbursement for COVID-19 coronavirus related …

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Commission receives CARES Act requests from R-1 school, City of Vienna, assessor

Calzone explains opposition to prescription drug monitoring program

Posted

VIENNA — It is becoming more of the routine that each week the Maries County Commission is receiving MRPC pre-approved requests for reimbursement for COVID-19 coronavirus related expenses.

Treasurer Rhonda Slone said on May 18, 2020, Maries County received $1,020,000 from the federal government in CARES Act revenue. The money is for helping public entities and businesses pay for the coronavirus expenses budget planners could not and did not plan for. The first reimbursement application was approved June 9.

At both county commission meetings last week, commissioners approved CARES Act money requests, all which had been pre-approved by MRPC — the organization that first receives the requests. MRPC is helping Maries County and other counties in the region properly administrate these funding requests.

At the Sept. 8 commission meeting, Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said Maries R-1 School has requested reimbursement for technology expenses. The commissioners had some questions and Superintendent Mark Parker called them on Sept. 10 with information about the school district’s request. Maries R-1 is using the MO Student Connectivity Grant for technology for both a connectivity grant and an access grant. The school district’s match amount is $22,299 and the school is asking for the CARES Act money to cover its part of the matching grant for technology upgrades.

The matching money is $10,299 for 78 Chromebook laptops. Another $12,000 is requested to expand Wi-Fi on the grounds and possibly hot spots and service, fiber to the ballpark, access points, other items, cables and gear. The school district purchased the Chromebooks in August.

Parker said the school’s match money is five percent of the total.

Clerk’s Deputy Renee Kottwitz and Parker discussed the process they are using to turn in receipts.

Parker said he has been including receipts with reimbursement requests. But, with the access grant, they need to figure out how to expand broadband width. He will have receipts for it so the county will know exactly what was spent. “These are things we have not budgeted for, but things we’ve had to do because of the coronavirus,” Parker said.

Stratman said Maries County Assessor Dana Simmons submitted an application for reimbursement for additional items the assessor’s office needs for its implementation of the GIS mapping system. Simmons requested $5,450.83 for another computer and licensing. MRPC approved it and the commissioners did as well.

The City of Vienna requested $1,341.20 of the CARES Act reimbursement for police equipment, clothing, latex gloves, respirator masks and other supplies. The city had receipts for all of the purchases and they were approved.

As of Sept. 10, the county has $744,463.56 of the federal CARES Act money remaining.

Confusing voter mailing

County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said a confusing piece of mail has been delivered to some county mailing addresses. It is addressed to Newly Eligible Voter and has a first-class mail return postage-paid envelope to the Maries County Clerk’s Office. Rodgers wants voters and citizens to know her office has nothing to do with this. It is confusing to people who believe themselves to be registered to vote and with this mailing, they think there’s a problem with their voter registration. The mailing obviously was sent to encourage people to register to vote and to vote, but for some people it caused them to have doubts about their voter status. Rodgers said anyone who is uncertain about their registration should contact her office at 573-422-3388 and staff will check their registration status. Citizens are encouraged to register to vote and have up to Oct. 7 to register in order to vote in the Tuesday, Nov. 3 General Election.

Clerk’s conference

Rodgers said the Missouri Association of County Clerk’s and Election Authorities Annual Conference she and Kottwitz attended last week was pretty good. About half of the state’s county clerks made the trip to Kansas City to attend. They had some “heavy hitters” as speakers as Senator Blunt was there, the governor, secretary of state and the treasurer. She really enjoyed the motivational speech by Dan Meers, the KC Wolf mascot for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Paperwork and time

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre had a call with a FEMA representative in a continued attempt to receive the disaster assistance for Road One for big material, equipment and labor expenses for the Sept. 30, 2019 rain/flooding event. Road One paid the entire bill of $107,896.29 for the rock, labor, overtime work on weekends and more getting the roads and crossings passable after the heavy rain and flooding last year. Maries County is charged with paying 15 percent, the state paying 10 percent, and the remaining 75 percent in the amount of $80,899.72 is paid by FEMA. Fagre complimented and thanked Rodgers and Kottwitz for helping Road One secure this money as it takes a lot of paperwork and time to make the applications.

PDMP

In late August, Stratman said he spoke with Sinks Pharmacy Pharmacist Jennifer Berhorst about the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) through St. Louis County that local pharmacist Kim Litton encouraged the commissioners to support. The program was set up by St. Louis County because the Missouri Legislature did not pass legislation to make it possible. Missouri is the only state in the country without such a addictive drug monitoring program.

The PDMP is an electronic database that tracks controlled substance prescriptions, according to the CDC. The program promotes responsible prescribing to save lives by assessing a patient’s history of controlled substance use. It is possible to improve the way opioids and addictive prescription drugs are prescribed, reducing the number of people who misuse, abuse, or overdose from when, while making sure patients have access to safe effective pain management. It can help identify patients who may be misusing prescription opioids or other prescription drugs and who may be at risk for overdose.

In Stratman’s conversation with Berhorst, he said she is all for it and it would not burden her to have it in place. Stratman said it requires a county ordinance and he would talk to Prosecuting Attorney Tony Skouby about it.

At the commission meeting on Sept. 10, citizen Ron Calzone came to the meeting to talk to the commissioners about decisions they are making about the PDMP which he disagrees with. Fagre told him Sheriff Chris Heitman is in favor of it as are the pharmacists in the county. Calzone asked Fagre if he supports the second amendment and Fagre said yes but he thinks the amendment that allows citizens to own guns is not going to be repealed because it takes 38 states to ratify changing a US amendment. Calzone said states are changing gun laws all the time and he thinks they are the tactics of anti-gun people to take away guns from citizens. When people buy guns they must fill out a form indicating they are not a felon or on drugs and it goes to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This system verifies the gun buyer does not have a criminal record and may be disqualified from receiving firearms. Calzone said there is a guy at the other end of the NICS check that says yes or no to a gun purchase. If Schedule 2 through Schedule 4 drugs are tracked through the PDMP system, people can be denied their right to buy a gun. He also said the person in charge of the St. Louis County system was indicted and the system there is not operated very well.

He used a laptop to play the commissioners a Gary Nolan radio show featuring an interview with Missouri Senator Caleb Rowden discussing this issue. Calzone also gave the commissioners copies of informative handouts that support his position on this issue. A 2017 pie graph showed 2.5 percent of the sources of diverted pain medicine is attributed to doctor shopping when addicts go from one doctor to another to get as many pills as they can. Calzone is concerned the drug monitoring program does not protect and second and fourth amendments.

Fagre commented there are places in the county where “folks are in trouble over prescription drugs because they can get all they need.”

Calzone said Missouri is the only state without the PDMP and is about average among the states with opioid use so he thinks the monitoring program does not work, plus his opinion is it violates those amendments.

Sheriff’s Deputy and Emergency Management Director Lt. Scott John came into the meeting. When asked if he thought the county should use the PDMP drug tracking program, said, “Why wouldn’t we?” John said the program tracks controlled substances. There are a lot of drugs besides opioids that are abused, he said, and this program “flags people who’ve been arrested for drug use.”

Stratman said he agrees the state should implement a program and the St. Louis County program “may be a band-aid thing.” Calzone said it was done by St. Louis County because the state was not acting on it because of data releasing concerns. Calzone said he’s against a statewide program as well and cited to Lt. John the small number of 2.5 percent being doctor shoppers for prescription pills.

Lt. John said that 2.5 percent is about 100 percent of the people they have in the Maries County Jail. He said he gets his information from the inmates in jail and from the people who are doctor shoppers. “I see it every day and I don’t need information about it.” Lt. John said these people don’t have much money and can’t make ends meet so they sell their prescriptions. He thinks the majority of the people in the state want this drug monitoring program. Lt. John said he’d like to see Missouri rank at the very bottom in the prescription drug use column but until then the state needs a way to do more to stop getting opioids in the hands of children.

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