Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. October 7, 2021.

Editorial: Johnson County GOP chair resigns after colleague alleges he grabbed her

Just days after we reported on allegations Johnson County GOP Chair Fabian Shepard grabbed and kissed the Wyandotte County Republican vice chair outside an event, Shepard is resigning his post.

Shepard told the Sunflower State Journal that he is stepping down because “the allegations had become too much of a distraction.” Shepard also resigned from the Johnson County Library Board and Mental Health Center Advisory Board.

Stephanie Cashion, Wyandotte County GOP vice chair, said late Thursday morning that she had yet to hear anything from either the Johnson County or the Kansas Republican Party about the resignation. That does make us wonder if they’re more interested in optics than in Cashion’s safety and well-being.

Cashion shared her story with The Star Editorial Board last week, and told us what she’d said in a report to Bonner Springs police on Sept. 3. She said Shepard led her outside of a pro-life event there on Aug. 20 and grabbed her and kissed her twice before she could pull away.

Shepard adamantly denied the allegation, and his supporters questioned Cashion’s veracity and motives in coming forward, though she did so only reluctantly, after being disparaged on social media.

Duane Beth, Wyandotte County GOP chair and the first to see Cashion at the event after the alleged incident, told us Cashion “looked scared and quiet and upset when I saw her, when she walked in the door.” He says that later that night she tearfully described to him what had happened.

“I am glad Fabian made the right choice and stepped down,” Beth said Thursday. “It was the right thing to do.”

GOP officials clearly saw anger building among Cashion’s supporters toward Kansas GOP Chairman Mike Kuckelman for what they felt was a cursory and reflexively dismissive inquiry into the incident. As recently as last week, Kuckelman shrugged it off as a “he said/she said” situation between two adults.

Worse, he blamed Cashion for speaking out. “You don’t go to media,” he said. “You don’t do news articles about it.”

She didn’t “go to the media.” We came to her. Yes, you absolutely do news articles about such behavior, at least in 2021.

And yes, the Kansas Republican Party should still investigate the investigation.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. October 10, 2021.

Editorial: Dithering on drug-monitoring program let abuses continue

Details of a recent $1.51 million federal court settlement involving a Creve Coeur pharmacy underscore why dithering and delaying by the Missouri Legislature over creating a prescription drug monitoring program contributed needlessly to addictions and possibly even deaths. The pharmacy involved filled improper fentanyl-based painkiller prescriptions that helped feed the state’s deadly opioid epidemic. By the time Missouri’s drug-monitoring program went into effect recently, the damage was already done.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri announced Monday that it had reached a civil settlement with pharmacy technician Irina Shlafshteyn and Olive Street Pharmacy related to the unlawful dispensing of controlled substances, including fentanyl. It appears some of the unlawfully dispensed drugs were billed to Medicare and Medicaid.

There were clear red flags that prescriptions were being abused to feed recreational users and addicts, but the pharmacy kept pumping out the pills.

It’s exactly this scenario that prescription drug monitoring programs around the country are designed to expose. But Missouri lawmakers insisted year after year on making this the only state in the country without a monitoring program. A handful of lawmakers argued baselessly that such programs threaten patient privacy. Their dithering kept the door open for opioid addicts to hop from doctor to doctor in hopes of getting prescriptions filled to feed their habits, or for corrupt doctors and pharmacies to profit off others’ addictions.

In the Olive Street Pharmacy case, prosecutors argued, pharmacists should have recognized clear signs that prescriptions had been altered and that opioid prescriptions exceeded by as much as 17.5 times the federal dosage guidance.

One Missouri doctor mentioned in the case, Philip Dean, a Warrenton neurologist, repeatedly wrote prescriptions for women “whom he had lived (with) and with whom he had had personal relationships,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated. Shlafshteyn and the Olive Street Pharmacy should have recognized the odd pattern exhibited by Dean’s behavior, yet they continued to fill his patients’ prescriptions.

Even though Missouri has been singled out for years as the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program, it wasn’t until last June that Gov. Mike Parson finally received a bill to create such a statewide program. He signed it, and now, thankfully, it’s law. But it never should have taken this long. Had the GOP-dominated Legislature recognized the problem sooner and acted upon it, rather than wait for local governments such as St. Louis County to adopt their own programs, thousands of lives might not have been ruined by ongoing opioid abuse and addiction.

The heavy price now being paid by pharmaceutical professionals in Creve Coeur should serve notice to others that Missouri is no longer asleep at the wheel and that serious consequences could be in store for anyone contemplating generating storefront commerce off others’ addictions.

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Jefferson City News Tribune. October 5, 2021. )

Editorial: Children’s futures, lives are at stake

Missouri’s Department of Social Services is designed to improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities.

Missouri’s Department of Social Services is designed to improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities. It’s a hugely important job. But perhaps nothing it does is more important than its role in protecting children.

That’s why it’s so disheartening to see a scathing new report that the department failed to sufficiently reduce children’s risk of going missing from the foster care system and frequently failed to notify local and federal authorities they were missing.

That’s according to a story we recently published by the Missouri Independent, a nonpartisan news organization covering state government and its impact on Missourians.

The U.S Department of Health Human Services Office of Inspector General issued the report last week. It said the Department of Social Services’ Children’s Division policies and case management systems resulted in missed opportunities to prevent foster children from going missing in the first place, the story reported. It said when children were found, the state appeared to do little to prevent them from going missing again.

The report emphasized what should be a given: Missing foster care children often experience adverse outcomes, including heightened risk of being inducted into sex trafficking.

The report cited instances in which several children had used drugs, a few became pregnant and one was sex trafficked while missing, the Missouri Independent reported.

The news agency said a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The department did give an official response to the feds, saying Children’s Division staff have historically had trouble convincing some local law enforcement agencies to accept reports of missing youth, particularly for teens 17 years and older.

That “may have discouraged (Children’s Division) staff from providing appropriate notice or appropriately documenting such notices in the past,” wrote Jennifer Tidball, the department’s acting director.

She noted alternative protocols had been developed with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to address the issue.

That doesn’t begin to convince us the problems are in the past.

We encourage Gov. Mike Parson and our state’s elected officials to study the issue and work with the Department of Social Services to ensure such large-scale failures don’t continue. Children’s futures, even their lives in some cases, are at stake.

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