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January 29, 2020

MO HealthNet successfully reducing opioid use across Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, MO — MO HealthNet’s fight against the opioid epidemic affecting Missouri families and communities is showing dramatic reductions in participant use. A comparison of MO HealthNet (MHD) pharmacy claims data shows opioid morphine milligram equivalents (MME) dispensed per calendar year (CY) dropped by 30 percent in 2019 and is down by 65 percent since 2012. The number of unique participants prescribed an opioid also decreased by 12% in 2019 and is down by 36% since 2012; around 60,000 fewer participants are on opioids. In CY 2012, the number of MO HealthNet participants utilizing opioids was 170,503; the number in CY 2019 was 109,610. The data reflects lower opioid usage for the entire MO HealthNet population, from short-term prescriptions following an injury or a dental procedure to long-term, high-dose prescriptions for chronic pain.

"These are significant results and demonstrate how MO HealthNet and enrolled providers are carefully monitoring and making better informed prescribing decisions about opioids to protect the health and safety of every MO HealthNet participant," said Todd Richardson, Director, MO HealthNet Division, Department of Social Services (DSS). "This progress is the result of a strong collaboration between the Administration, the General Assembly, and our participating providers. Better prescribing practices, expanded treatment options, and access to alternative therapies are leading to better outcomes for MO HealthNet participants."

"When Missourians unite for a common cause, we can achieve amazing results. We are extremely proud of the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Mental Health, health care providers, and all of the other Missourians who have come together to fight the opioid epidemic that has tragically impacted many lives and communities," said Governor Mike Parson.

In 2012, MO HealthNet began working with providers to reduce opioid prescriptions and update prescribing practices to improve care to MO HealthNet participants. MO HealthNet also limited initial opioid prescriptions to seven days or less in 2017. MO HealthNet acknowledges this a collaborative effort and recognizes the vital contributions of MO HealthNet providers, the Missouri Medicaid Audit and Compliance Unit, the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Mental Health and the General Assembly.

"Many people who overdose now are often doing so on fentanyl, but that addiction started with prescription opioids, either from their own prescription or through diversion," said Dr. Randall Williams, Director, Department of Health and Senior Services. "For that reason, we feel it is important to decrease the amount of opioids being prescribed and welcome this wonderful news. Based on our preliminary 2019 data, we anticipate a 10 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths and appreciate all being done to address this problem."

Mark Stringer, Director, Department of Mental Health said, "Collaboration among our state agencies to educate and train clinicians on evidence-based prescribing of opioids has been a critical component of our comprehensive effort to fight this crisis. Working together, we will continue to prioritize preventing substance use disorders and saving the lives of Missouri citizens."

MO HealthNet providers also commented on this news. "It is encouraging to see the positive impact the State of Missouri has had on reducing the number of morphine milligram equivalents prescribed each year," said Nick Pfannenstiel, Vice President of Oral Health, Jordan Valley Community Health Center. "A key component of this success has been the relationship between MO HealthNet and the prescribing providers in the state. As a provider, I appreciate MO HealthNet recognizing the need to put the patient’s safety and health outcomes first and foremost. With the adoption of CDC prescribing guidelines for opioid prescriptions, MO HealthNet and providers across the state are taking a combined interest in improving the lives of Missouri residents."

The mission of the Department of Social Services is to lead the nation in building the capacity of individuals, families and communities to secure and sustain healthy, safe, and productive lives. Visit to learn more about the Department of Social Services and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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Rebecca Woelfel