MHAM January 1, 2019
Happy New Year! Welcome to the Mental Health Association in Michigan (MHAM) blog. We are introducing a blog that will be posted on the MHAM web site and on Facebook about every two weeks. The blog will bring you up to date information about what is happening in both public and private behavioral healthcare that may impact you, our constituents. This initial blog is intended to introduce you to MHAM and its advocacy goals and initiatives for 2019. We will also give you a brief recap of legislation that MHAM is monitoring and hoping to push over the next year. If you want to learn more about what is happening at the state level that may impact you and/or someone else, we encourage you to visit us on a regular basis. We keep an eye on what is going on at the state so that you can rest easy knowing that MHAM’s got it.
In case you are not familiar with us, the Mental Health Association in Michigan (MHAM) is the state’s oldest advocacy organization for individuals with brain disorders (also known as mental illnesses). MHAM’s constituents are primarily individuals who have brain disorders, their families, and those who support them. MHAM’s primary role is to act as the “eyes and ears” for its constituents regarding state and/or national public policy initiatives that may negatively or positively impact their interests. MHAM’s mission is to ensure that those individuals who are affected by public policy changes have a “seat at the table”. If you are new to the advocacy world and are not familiar with MHAM, we encourage you to read the blog and then look around our web site.
MHAM’s work concerns itself with monitoring legislation pertaining to behavioral health care in Michigan. Changes in state laws that may impact persons with mental illnesses are closely watched. MHAM understands that legislative changes to existing law can be either positive or negative and it is for this reason that MHAM keeps a close eye on public and private behavioral healthcare in Michigan. Often, changes in government programs and services are not felt when the initial changes in laws or regulations are made. It is not until those changes are implemented that the importance of understanding legislation is fully felt.
We appreciate your interest in learning more about MHAM and how the next few years may impact public and private mental health in Michigan. If you have questions, please contact us!
It Is a Brand-New Year!
It is a brand-new year and there is brand new leadership in the state of Michigan with Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer taking the reigns from outgoing Governor Rick Snyder at the Inauguration. There are changes in the state house and in the senate as well along a new Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Mike Shirkey (R)—Clarklake, and a new House Speaker, Rep. Lee Chatfield (R) – Northern Michigan.
The month of December 2018 saw one of the busiest Lame Duck sessions since 1970. A lot of legislation was presented to the Governor for his signature but not every bill was signed into law. During the December Lame Duck, the Mental Health Association in Michigan was paying close attention to certain bills that were introduced shortly after Thanksgiving including a set of bills known as HB 1245-1247. These bills, had they been passed, would have given law enforcement the ability to directly access the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS). MAPS is a system created in 2003 that is used by healthcare professionals to track Schedule 2-5 controlled substances that are prescribed and filled for individuals. Law enforcement cannot access MAPS directly. MHAM opposed this set of bills and the bills did not become law. MHAM will be monitoring this set of bills because we expect them to be resurrected in 2019. The full House did not adopt the bills, and the 2017-18 legislative session is now closed. We are willing to work on this issue with any interested parties next session, to assure privacy is appropriately handled. Violating confidentiality won’t stop bad prescribing, provider fraud, or organized crime. All it will do is set you up to be investigated without any probable cause.
MHAM also worked with other members of the advocacy community to add mediation to the front end of the recipient rights complaint process. The recipient rights system is part of the public mental health system and is intended to ensure that persons served have certain rights protections. Most parties recognize that in Michigan the phrase “recipient rights” is largely an oxymoron. Consumers and families rarely get relief from the recipient rights system. And the mediation option presently in law is a joke. It can only be tried after a recipient rights investigation has been completed (up to 90 days, plus several possible appeals), and then only if the complainant and respondent both agree. That never happens.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) killed the bill on mediation of consumer/family complaints that was slated to go through the December lame-duck session. The bill (HB 5625) emanated from the House CARES (mental health) Task Force and sailed through the House by a vote of 109-0 in early December (It was not introduced in lame-duck, but rather months ago.) No one testified against it, and MDHHS supported it, thanks to the good efforts of Matt Lori, the department’s director of policy and legislative services. Then, because of the critique of a new and inexperienced departmental bureau head, George Mellos, MDHHS switched to neutrality on Dec. 11, and then switched again to opposition Dec. 14. (Dr. Mellos recently replaced Lynda Zeller, whose resignation took effect in September, at the Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Bureau.) The Senate could have had both us and the department speak to this at a committee hearing Dec. 18th but chose not to do so. MHAM will continue to aggressively pursue this legislation in 2019.
MHAM also continues to push legislation that will protect psychiatric medications that are covered by Medicaid. Currently, access to psychiatric medications is protected in a 2004 state statute (but not totally); in departmental policy and in budget boilerplate language. MHAM will seek legislation that is all-inclusive and that provides protections through state statute that is not dependent upon departmental policy and/or budget boilerplate language.
Marianne E. Huff, LMSW
Mental Health Association in Michigan