Schuitmaker bills crack down on doctor shopping, pill mills

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on Wednesday introduced a legislative package aimed at combating the growing prescription drug and heroin epidemic that affects every community in Michigan.

“Opioid related overdoses are skyrocketing nationwide, and unfortunately, Michigan’s overdose death rate is one of the highest in the nation,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “I have worked tirelessly to address this issue, but as more information becomes available, more work needs to be done.”

Senate Bills 166 and 167 are primarily focused on cracking down on doctors who carelessly prescribe medications and eliminating any illicit collusion between pharmacies and physicians.

These operations, commonly referred to as pill mills, typically have an illegitimate doctor- pharmacy relationship in which a doctor or clinic prescribes certain narcotics, often without a legitimate medical purpose, and a pharmacy dispenses them.

SB 166 seeks to end this practice by requiring that doctors use the Michigan Automated Prescription System, or MAPS, and that they check the system before prescribing medications to new patients. MAPS was designed to prevent drug diversion by collecting prescription information for Schedule II through Schedule V controlled substances. Because the prescription history is listed, it is much easier to determine when abuse or doctor shopping is occurring.

“The number of controlled substances prescribed in Michigan has nearly quadrupled over the past eight years,” Schuitmaker said. “Currently, few doctors consult MAPS before prescribing highly addictive substances. These bills ensure that doctors will have all relevant information regarding a patient’s prescription history.”

The package also outlines punishments for physicians who fail to do their due diligence when prescribing medications.

SB 167 would require a violating physician to complete remedial continuing medical education requirements in order to maintain their licensure. Failure to do so could result in license suspension or permanent revocation.

“Too often medical professionals are unaware of the dangers of readily handing out prescriptions such as hydrocodone or oxycodone,” Schuitmaker said. “This is often the first step that can lead to heroin or other illicit drug abuse. Senate Bills 166 and 167 are an important tool for patients and doctors to end this deadly cycle.”

SBs 166 and 167 have been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy.

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Legislators introduce bills to combat sexual assault, support victims

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — A bipartisan group of legislators introduced a legislative package on Thursday that would help the state better serve victims of sexual assault and provide prosecutors with more tools to bring perpetrators to justice.

“I have always made it a priority to fight for crime victims and ensure that they have access to the resources they need,” said Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “These bills make a wider array of services available to victims and support local sexual assault nurse examiners so they can continue providing the first line of care after an assault takes place.”

Senate Bill 152 and 153, sponsored by Schuitmaker and  Sen. Rebekah Warren, and House Bill 4190, sponsored by Rep. Laura Cox, would allow courts to consider prior bad acts in cases of sexual assault, increase reimbursement rates to medical providers who offer services to victims, and create consistency in how service providers are compensated.

“Michigan has been a leader in combating sexual assault, both on college campuses and in our communities,” said Cox, R-Livonia. “This legislation allows courts to take into consideration a suspect’s history of sexual assault as we work to take these dangerous predators off our streets.”

Warren added that this is a statewide issue and we all must work together to fight it.

“Sexual assault is not confined to certain neighborhoods or limited by demographics. It affects everyone,” said Warren, D-Ann Arbor. “Creating consistency in how health providers are compensated will ensures that victims from all walks of life will have a place to go to seek treatment and begin moving forward as survivors.”

Currently in cases involving sexual assaults of minors, courts are permitted to consider evidence that suspects may have committed a previous offense. This legislation would allow courts to consider evidence of prior bad acts in any sexual assault.

The bills would also increase compensation for health care providers who offer certain services to victims related to gathering evidence of a sexual assault, as well as expand which entities are eligible to receive compensation for providing care and services to victims.

Debi Cain, executive director to the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention & Treatment Board, praised the legislation.

“This important package of bills will make an enormous difference for victims of sexual violence,” Cain said. “The bills enhance the safety net for sexual assault victims who choose to use the criminal justice system as a part of their healing process.

“The Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention & Treatment Board is deeply grateful to Senator Schuitmaker, Senator Warren, and Representative Cox for their unwavering work on behalf of sexual assault survivors.”

SBs 152 and 153 have been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, while HB 4190 has been referred to the House Committee on Law and Justice.

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Sen. Schuitmaker welcomes the Rev. Brian Vos to state Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, welcomed the Rev. Brian Vos and his family to the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday. Vos serves as pastor at Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia and delivered the invocation before Senate session.

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Editor’s note: A print-quality version of the above photo is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com. Click “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.

Photo Caption: Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, stands for a photo with her guest, Rev. Brian Vos (right) of Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia, his wife Deb, and their children after Vos delivered the invocation before Senate session on Wednesday.

Schuitmaker legislation aimed at combatting truancy, chronic absenteeism

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation that would update and clarify our state’s truancy laws was introduced in the state Senate on Tuesday.

“The state of Michigan currently has no across-the-board definition of truancy on the books,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, one of the package’s leading sponsors. “Schools have been creating their own guidelines, which has led to different interpretations even between school buildings in the same district. Our current methods are failing to keep kids in the classroom and out of courtrooms.”

Senate Bills 103-106 would define both “truancy” and “chronic absenteeism” within state law. Truancy would be defined as having a minimum of 10 unexcused absences in a school year, while chronically absent would be defined as being absent for at least 10 percent of the scheduled school days in a school year, including both excused and unexcused absences, and absences due to disciplinary reasons.

The legislation also includes preventative measures that not only seek to prevent kids from missing class, but corrective measures that seek to find the underlying problem as to why the student missed school in the first place.

“Far too often the response to low attendance is simply to suspend the students and send them home which removes them from the classroom and resources they need to be successful,” Schuitmaker said. “This does nothing to curb the issue. These bills would create consistent definitions for schools to follow and outline procedures for dealing with chronically absent and truant students.”

Data shows that as students miss more and more class time, graduation rates go down and delinquency rates go up. It is a commonly known fact that students who miss school tend to struggle academically and are more likely to drop out.

The problem is then magnified because dropouts are less likely to be employed, and are often more likely to face poverty or prison time. In fact, of the 8,800 people sentenced to prison in Michigan in 2012, 49 percent did not have a GED or high school diploma.

“When you consider that every prisoner Michigan gains costs the state about $37,500 per year, and that the average prisoner spends four years behind bars, you can see that we have a vested interest in keeping our kids in the classroom and providing them with an education,” Schuitmaker said.

In order to prevent students from missing additional class time, Schuitmaker says the bill was crafted to include provisions that prohibit a child from being suspended or expelled solely for truancy or chronic absence from school.

“The common misconception is that students miss school because they don’t want to be there, or are up to no good. The reality is students often miss school because of circumstances beyond their control such as a difficult home life or they are being bullied and don’t want to face their aggressors. I think the most important part of this legislation is looking beyond the surface and trying to understand the reasons students are missing school and attempting to fix that first.”

SBs 103-106 have been referred to the Senate Committee on Families, Seniors and Human Services.

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Schuitmaker, Senate promote heart health

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker has once again teamed up with the American Heart Association and fellow legislators to raise awareness about the dangers of heart disease.

Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, was joined by state Sens. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, Margaret O’Brien, R-Kalamazoo, and Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, on the Senate floor after her resolution, Senate Resolution 9, was officially read into the Senate.

SR 9 proclaims February as American Heart Month and Feb. 3 as “Wear Red Day” in Michigan.

“Each year the Michigan Senate and the American Heart Association team up to raise awareness and educate the public, especially women, about how to recognize warning signs of a heart attack,” Schuitmaker said. “Our goal is to continue reaching more people and saving more lives. Over the past 10 years, more than 600,000 lives have been saved thanks to the Go Red for Women movement.”

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Editor’s note: This and other print-quality photos are available by clicking on the image or visiting www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com and clicking the Photowire link under the Media Center tab. Video of Schuitmaker speaking during Wednesday’s session is also available on her website under the Video tab.

Photo caption: State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, (center left) poses on the Senate floor with, from left, Sens. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, and Margaret O’Brien, R- Kalamazoo, after the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 9.