Dear Friends,

Hello and welcome to the November edition of my e-newsletter!

This letter serves as an update on my work as your State Representative including new legislation and important updates from the Capitol. In this edition of my e-newsletter you will find:

  • Monthly office hours
  • Budget update
  • Behavioral health hearing update
  • Improving Michigan’s expungement’s laws
  • Raise the Age
  • Improving public safety through water quality standards

I’ve been able to take your concerns directly to Lansing, and I am excited to continue to do so. I’m committed to maintaining an open line of communication and encourage all residents to contact our office and share your thoughts and concerns so that I can best represent you.

If you ever have any questions or concerns about state government, or pending legislation, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at (517) 373-0836 or by email: marywhiteford@house.mi.gov. You are my priority and it is an honor to serve you.

Sincerely,

Mary Whiteford
State Representative
80th District

Monthly office hours
I will hold my next set of office hours on Monday, November 11. No appointment is necessary. Residents who are unable to meet during my scheduled office hours may contact my Lansing office at (855) 737-0080 or by e-mailing me at marywhiteford@house.mi.gov. Please stop by and say hello!

Budget Update
The Legislature is elected to be the voice of Michigan’s people and decide how taxpayer dollars are spent. But the governor vetoed 147 items outlined in the Legislature-approved budget.

The Legislature’s budget invested more money than ever in roads and schools without raising taxes.

In total, Gov. Whitmer vetoed $375 million for road repairs and $128 million from the school aid fund.

She cut money that directly impacts Allegan county including:

  • $96,000 to Allegan County Sheriff secondary road patrol
  • $205,000 to county jail reimbursements
  • $1.6 million for Allegan General Hospital
  • $60,000 for Legal Assistance in Allegan County

Other devastating cuts:

  • $36.5 million total for the Going Pro technical education program.
  • $2 million for the Michigan CARES Hotline
  • Increases for pediatric behavioral health reimbursement
  • $1.5 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs
  • $2 million for an oral health assessment for children entering kindergarten
  • $1 million for school based health centers

The governor has cut millions of dollars that help the most vulnerable people in our local communities, from children to veterans to seniors.

I will continue to fight for the best interests of Allegan County taxpayers and their families.

A Plan for Parolee Success
On October 22 I testified before the House Judiciary Committee on House Bill 4700.

This legislation directs the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to create a mental health discharge plan for each prisoner who is receiving mental health services or mental health prescription medication before he or she is released on parole.

This discharge plan includes:

  • an appointment after release with a mental health professional who can provide mental health prescription medication
  • an assessment of whether the prisoner is eligible upon release for enrollment in Medicaid or Medicare,
  • A plan of people and actions that will support the prisoner as he or she transitions out of prison.

20% of the state’s general fund (dollars that are not restricted to a specific purpose) is spent on the state corrections system. Even more startling, while the prison population is at a 20 year low, expenses continue to rise. Some more facts about the prison population:

  1. About 20% of Michigan’s prison population is enrolled in a mental health program through the Michigan Department of Corrections.
  2. According to the Pew Center, many people with mental or substance use disorders when released from prison, continue to lack access to necessary services and, too often, become enmeshed in a cycle of costly justice system involvement.
  3. According to a study by the Mathematica Policy institute, reducing barriers to Medicaid enrollment is likely to increase access to health services and reduce subsequent admissions to prisons, hospitals, or other institutions.

By creating a pathway for a successful transition out of prison, we can reduce the likelihood of reoffending, and reduce the need for costly medical treatment within the prison system.

Behavioral Health Hearings Update
At the beginning of October, the Department of Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee began a series of behavioral health hearings.

Increased and easier access to behavioral healthcare is of great importance to Allegan county and to our committee. Not only do we want easier access, we want the best opportunities for our citizens who are experiencing behavioral health issues.

Michigan residents deserve quality services from our behavioral health system. That is why my colleagues and I are committed to looking at ideas and recommendations to improve the services we provide. These five hearings consist of new ideas from various stakeholders on how to help reform our system. My goal as chair of the House DHHS Subcommittee is to create a system that is patient-centered and as free as possible from administrative barriers. Michigan taxpayers want to ensure we are funding services for individuals who need them, not funding administrative costs. As much of every dollar as possible should go directly to the care of patients.

Currently, Medicaid behavioral healthcare is managed by Prepaid In-Patient Health Plans (PIHP) and delivered through a Community Mental Health Services Program (CMHSP), while physical health care is managed separately by Medicaid Health Plans. This includes people with mild to moderate mental illness.

Michigan receives Medicaid funds from the federal government with a general fund match from our state. Michigan has received a waiver to “carve-out” our behavioral health costs and management to PIHPs and CMHSPs for severe mental illness, DD/ID citizens, and substance use disorder treatment and prevention

Many other states have started to “carve-in” their behavioral health system to managed healthcare plans to manage both physical and behavioral healthcare. Michigan is the only Great Lakes State that carves out its behavioral health services from its physical health services. Carve-out plans provide behavioral health benefits through CMHSPs on a fee-for-service basis while having physical benefits under managed care contracts. Behavioral health services are covered under CMH contracts in four areas: specialty outpatient mental health, inpatient mental health, outpatient substance use disorder, and inpatient substance use disorders. Additionally, Michigan mandates individuals with developmental disabilities to receive services through a PIHP.

We have learned that individuals within a carved out system live 25-30 years shorter than the average life expectancy.

Speakers have included

  • Jeff Patton, CEO of Kalamazoo CMH and
  • Jim Haveman, former Director of the Department of Community Health,
  • Alan Bolter and Bob Sheehan of the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan
  • Kevin Koorstra from the House Fiscal Agency
  • Tom Betlach, former director of Arizona’s Medicaid Department

We also dedicated two hearing dates to open testimony. We look forward to continuing this important conversation and making our public mental health system work for those who need it.

Improving Michigan’s expungement laws
This week the Michigan House of Representatives approved a bipartisan plan to expand Michigan’s expungement laws and give hundreds of thousands of residents with old, low-level criminal convictions the ability to start fresh, have expanded job opportunities, and become productive members of their communities.

Michigan’s current expungement law allows people with certain convictions to petition for the expungement of one felony or two misdemeanors after being free of contact from the court system for a minimum of five years.

This package will strengthen our economy because thousands of people will become more employable at a critical time when job providers are in dire need of a ready, able and reliable workforce. This plan will also make our communities safer because a steady, well-paying job is one of the best ways to ensure people live productive, crime-free lives.

The six-bill legislative package

  • Expands the number of people who qualify for expungement. A person with up to three felonies may apply to have all their convictions set aside if none of the convictions are for an assaultive crime. If the person has an assaultive crime on their record, they can apply to have up to two felonies and four misdemeanors set aside.
  • Establishes automatic expungement for certain offenders. This would be available to people who would otherwise qualify for expungement via petition if none of the convictions are for an assaultive crime or serious misdemeanor and all are punishable by less than 10 years imprisonment.
  • Allows for the expungement of marijuana convictions. People with misdemeanor marijuana convictions would be able to petition to have the convictions set aside if the behavior that led to the conviction is permissible under current law.
  • Allows forgiveness for acts committed during “one bad night.” For the purposes of expungement, crimes similar in nature that were committed in the same act may be treated as a single felony if none of the crimes were assaultive, none of the crimes involved the possession of a weapon, and none of the crimes had a maximum penalty greater than 10 years.
  • Allows for the expungement of some traffic offenses. Offenses such as DUI/OWI and other traffic crimes causing serious injury or death would not qualify.
  • Shortens the eligibility period for expungement. Under the plan, an application to set aside more than one felony could be filed after seven years; an application to set aside a “serious misdemeanor” or single felony could be filed after five years; and an application to set aside other misdemeanors with no felonies could be filed after three years.

Historic ‘Raise the Age’ reforms signed by the governor
A plan to end the policy requiring all 17-year-olds to be treated as adults in Michigan’s criminal justice system was signed into law by the governor after receiving overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Michigan is one of just four states still requiring all 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults – even those who commit the most minor offenses. Eliminating this harmful practice will help rehabilitate young offenders and reduce the likelihood of them breaking the law again in the future.

Including 17-year-olds in the juvenile system has been shown to reduce reoffending by 34 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

If signed into law, the bipartisan plan would raise the age at which individuals are considered adults for the purposes of prosecuting and adjudicating criminal offenses, allowing 17-year-olds to be treated as minors in most circumstances beginning Oct. 1, 2021. Prosecutors will continue to have discretion, allowing them to waive minors who commit violent crimes into the adult system when appropriate.

The plan also includes a funding plan to ensure local communities do not incur any additional costs associated with keeping 17-year-old offenders in the juvenile system, which is administered at the local level.

Improving public safety through water quality standards
On October 15, I provided testimony on my legislation to create a lead poisoning prevention and control commission within the department of health and human services. This is part of a comprehensive, three-part plan that looks at water quality across the board: from improving municipal safeguards and oversight to tightening up environmental protection and conservation that will preserve our freshwater heritage for generations to come.

  • First, this plan protects public safety by updating testing requirements at common sources of public drinking water, such as schools and childcare centers, with more rigorous testing requirements.
  • Second, this plan ensures smart management of public water resources by proposing updates to the state’s emergency manager law that would create a more open and transparent three-person committee process.
  • Third, additional reporting and analysis of water quality will help ensure Michigan remains on the leading edge of protecting our precious waterways from potential threats and emerging contaminants.

This is a bipartisan, bicameral across-the-board proposal that builds on our shared values to protect our freshwater heritage across the state, whether it’s the water that we fish in or the water that comes out of the tap.

Constituent Connections

Senator Nesbitt and I love seeing my local optometrists Amanda Hodge and Amy Guarisco at the Capitol.

Resthaven Care Center provides long term care which is an important part of our senior citizen’s lives!

Visiting my local dermatology nurse practitioner for my annual skin check. Be sure and schedule yours!

Community Action of Allegan County hosted a wonderful hearts and Hands fundraiser for the community.

The joint Allegan-Otsego-Plainwell chamber of commerce held a fantastic event at the Lynx for local businesses.

I loved hosting visits at the capitol for the 4th graders from Starr Elementary!

Glad to see my friends, Holland mayor Nancy and Jim DeBoer at the capitol.

I was honored to receive the School Community Health Alliance of Michigan Legislative Award.

I had a wonderful time joining  Michigan Career and Technical Institute students from Plainwell on their capitol tour

I love opportunities to tour local businesses like Hutt Trucking to see the role they play in the community

The Casco United Methodist Church recently hosted a Soup Supper for the community. What a wonderful group of friends!

Joining my friends at the Holland VFW for the ceremony adding the 2018-19 National Community Service Award to their Vietnam Memorial Wall exhibit.

It was an honor to present a tribute to a community staple, Russ’ Restaurant for their 85th anniversary!

I presented a tribute to the Allegan Fire Department for their 150-year anniversary. Thank you for your service!

My husband Kevin, and my grandchildren and I participated in the Addyson Angel Run for the Star Legacy Foundation.

Hosting a tour of the Capitol for the 4th graders from Dix Street Elementary in Otsego.

Celebrating the Holland Fire Truck Parade with my Family.

Visiting Lansing?
My priority is always you! If you plan to visit Lansing for a conference or meeting, please contact my office in advance so I can make every effort to meet with you while you are in town.

Celebrating a Special Occasion?
My office is happy to offer legislative tributes in honor of a number of noteworthy events such as retirement, anniversaries of businesses in our community, awards and public recognitions.

STATE GOVERNMENT RESOURCES

 

State Government Links

The Official State, County and City Government Website Locator: www.statelocalgov.net/state-mi.cfm

Michigan Senate website: www.senate.michigan.gov

Michigan House of Representatives website: www.house.michigan.gov

Michigan Legislative Website: www.legislature.mi.gov

Unemployment Issues: If you are having issues connecting with the state unemployment office or receiving your unemployment benefits, please feel free to contact me by calling 517-373-0836. You may also find additional helpful information at the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency website: http://www.michigan.gov/uia/0,1607,7-118-26831—,00.html