Repeating a call to do better, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson looks to expand workforce development, improve infrastructure and remove Missouri as the only state without a prescription drug-monitoring database.

Efforts to implement a comprehensive prescription-monitoring program have failed in past legislative sessions, however Parson is optimistic the incoming legislature finally will be able to tackle “doctor shopping,” especially when it comes to the increasingly deadly epidemic of opioid addiction and abuse.

“I’ve said that, openly, we should have that,” Parson said. “I think the bigger issue is how do you get some of these things off the streets.”

Parson, a former sheriff in southwest Missouri, touted an increased effort to remove unused medication from falling into the wrong hands.

“Since October of this year, we’ve taken actually 43,000 pounds of drugs off the streets, whether that was voluntarily or through law enforcement,” he said.

One of the biggest hurdles in getting a drug-monitoring system passed has been privacy concerns raised by departing St. Joseph State Sen. Rob Schaaf. With the Republican vacating his seat because of term limits, prior legislative holdups could lessen.

What’s more, Schaaf’s successor, Republican Tony Luetkemeyer, already has prefiled legislation that would enact the very system his predecessor worked to squash.

“This is a critical tool to fight the opioid epidemic,” Luetkemeyer said in announcing the bill. “Doctors and law enforcement, Democrats and Republicans, mothers and fathers — they all agree that Missouri can no longer afford to be the only state in the country that doesn’t track these powerful prescriptions.”

On infrastructure, Parson said he is committed to working with the legislature to find new ways to supplement the funding gap. The governor stressed infrastructure when he met with legislative leadership following last month’s election.

“What do we have available, can we find some revenue streams and maybe not do as much as what we did with (Proposition D),” Parson said. “Those things don’t go away, so it’s not like you can just sit back and OK, we are not going to do anything.

“One way or another, we are going to have to move some things around to figure out how we are going to afford infrastructure in the state,” he said.

Parson said when he talks about infrastructure, it’s not just highways and bridges. Expanding broadband internet access to rural portions of the state is something he sees as vital.

“We still have school systems in this state that don’t have access to broadband,” Parson said. “That’s just unacceptable in today’s time to be able to try to get these kids out of school and give them the advantages they need to compete.”

The newly elevated chief executive said another priority will be ensuring those same students will be prepared for the job market. Workforce development, as he calls it, aims to expand training and educational opportunities to fulfill jobs within industries that are in high demand for skilled labor, something traditional, four-year higher education institutions haven’t particularly focused on.

Mark Zinn | News-Press Now