Legislation increasing availability of mental health treatment introduced by Schuitmaker, supported by Lt. Gov. Calley

For Immediate Release:
September 27, 2013

Contact: Derek Sova

LANSING—Legislation introduced in the Michigan Senate yesterday will provide more treatment options for people suffering from mental illness.  The legislation was introduced by Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and is supported by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.

“How we view people suffering from mental illness is a major discussion taking place right now around the country," Schuitmaker said.  "Evidence shows that making treatment available to those who would end up in jail is much more effective and reduces costs long term."

Senate Bill 558 would require county law enforcement and community mental health agencies, in collaboration with courts and other key local resources, to create policies and practices for diverting to treatment persons who are at risk of jail incarceration due to the presence of a serious mental illness.

"Simply locking up people with mental illness does nothing to address the cause of the problem," Schuitmaker added.  "When those folks are released, the illness that led them to break the law is still present."

Throughout the state, individuals with mental illness are being incarcerated with the general criminal population.  A 2009 Attorney General opinion requires counties to provide the costs of mental health services to the jail population, regardless of ability to pay.  Senate Bill 557 makes it easier for able and willing community mental health organizations to provide jail mental health service at their own expense.

These jail sentences are costly to taxpayers and, more importantly, do not address the cause of the behavior. This legislation provides law enforcement and mental health agencies more options for providing and funding mental health treatment.

Local officials including prosecutors, sheriff's departments and mental health professionals are responsible for developing the guidelines for eligibility and administration of the programs, as well as determining treatment options available.


Schuitmaker co-sponsors legislation to crack down on welfare abuse

For Immediate Release:
Sept. 26, 2013

Contact: Derek Sova

LANSING, Mich.—Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, co-sponsored two bills introduced in the Michigan Senate on Thursday that aim to crack down on misuse of cash assistance money.

“Cash assistance is meant to provide a temporary safety net for families who fall on hard times,” Schuitmaker said. “That money is not meant to be used on gambling, alcohol or tobacco.  Hardworking taxpayers should not have to support this type of waste and abuse.”

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, sponsored the bills.

“Bridge Cards should be used to feed hungry families and provide the necessities of life. Lap dances and liquor are not necessities,” said Jones.

Senate Bills 554 and 556 would prohibit cash assistance from being withdrawn from ATMs located at horse racing tracks, liquor stores and adult entertainment establishments.

Family Independence Program (FIP) benefits, also known as welfare, are distributed electronically to a recipient’s Michigan Bridge Card account. Users can make purchases by using the card electronically like a debit card, or they can withdraw cash from ATMs.

The majority of Bridge Card users only receive food assistance, which provides no option to withdraw cash. Approximately 200,000 individuals are currently eligible to receive FIP cash assistance.

A similar law passed last year prohibits cash assistance from being withdrawn from ATMs located in casinos. In 2010, it was discovered that more than $87,000 in cash assistance was withdrawn from ATMs at one Detroit casino.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions.