Committee hears testimony on improved prescription monitoring program

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Committee on Health Policy heard testimony Tuesday on an improved prescription monitoring program that could help prevent drug diversion and fraud in the state, said Chairman Sen. Mike Shirkey.

Appriss Health spoke to the committee about the company’s improvements to the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) to integrate it into physician workflow and speed up the process of monitoring prescriptions.

Shirkey said improving MAPS is an important part of the answer to the state’s opioid abuse epidemic.

“Opioid abuse is a multi-faceted societal problem that we need to address with a comprehensive, well-thought-out solution,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “It is not just the prescribers of medications who will fix this issue; we all need to work together to help communities and curb the opioid epidemic once and for all.”

MAPS helps prevent drug diversion and fraud by prescribers, pharmacies, and patients. The system tracks prescriptions for Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 controlled substances.

MAPS is particularly useful for physicians to monitor whether patients with pain symptoms have multiple prescriptions and could be engaging in drug diversion. It also can identify providers who may be abusing their prescriptive authority.

“The problem with our current MAPS is that it’s slow and not integrated into physician workflow,” Shirkey said. “As it currently operates, the physician has to exit the patient’s medical record and pull a different report from MAPS to uncover the patient’s Schedule 2 through 5 prescription history. This can take up to 10 minutes, so unfortunately many physicians forego this process.”

The new MAPS, created by Appriss, will be implemented soon and will be a faster system.

Shirkey said mandating MAPS and penalizing physicians will be an important piece of the opioid solution puzzle.

“But mandating MAPS and penalizing physicians before we are sure the new system is integrated properly and before we are sure physicians are comfortable with the new system could lead to some severe unintended consequences,” he said. “That is why we heard today from Appriss about the work they have done on the system, how it will be implemented and the practical applications of the system for those who will be using it.”

Last week, Shirkey introduced Senate Bill 272, which would require physicians to educate patients and have them sign a form developed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that indicates they understand the dangers of opioids, they have been given proper medication disposal instructions, and they understand it is against Michigan law for their pills to get in the hands of any other individual.

SB 272 is part of a comprehensive effort among lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to address the growing opioid abuse epidemic in Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson counties and across the state.

As part of this effort, numerous bills were unveiled last week in both the House and Senate. Most of the Senate bills are now before the Senate Health Policy Committee.

Photo Advisory: Shirkey reads to Bronson students for March is Reading Month

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, visited students at Anderson Elementary School in Bronson on Friday as part of March is Reading Month. Shirkey emphasized the importance of reading and read aloud to the students from one of his favorite short stories.

Note: For a print-quality version of this and other Shirkey photos, click the image or click Photowire, below.

Shirkey warns of tax scams

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey on Friday warned residents of potentially costly phone scams.

“During tax season, there’s an increase in scam phone calls from criminals claiming to be tax officials asking for cash payments through a wire transfer or prepaid debit card,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “We encourage you to be on guard against dishonest practices like these.”

Shirkey said it is helpful to remember what the Michigan Department of Treasury will — and will not — do. He said the agency will never:
•    Initiate a phone call to ask for personal information;
•    Call to demand immediate payment from a prepaid debit card, wire transfer or gift card;
•    Threaten to immediately arrest the taxpayer;
•    Demand that taxes be paid without an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed; or
•    Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

“If you are at all suspicious of someone calling to take your tax information, hang up and contact the IRS,” Shirkey said.

Taxpayers who receive a call from a scammer should report the case to the IRS by calling 800-366-4484.

Senate bills would help curb opioid abuse epidemic

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation introduced Thursday would help curtail the rising opioid abuse epidemic in Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson counties and across the state by educating patients on the dangers of opioids and opioid addiction.

Sen. Mike Shirkey sponsored Senate Bill 272, which would require physicians to educate patients and have them sign a form developed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that indicates they understand the dangers of opioids, they have been given proper medication disposal instructions, and they understand it is against Michigan law for their pills to get in the hands of any other individual.

“A common sentiment among the public is that anything your doctor gives you must be completely safe and harmless. But we know that with opioids, that is not always true,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Patient misinformation is very dangerous in the case of these drugs, which can be highly addictive. SB 272 takes important steps to solve this problem by educating patients.”

Shirkey said that under current practice, many patients neglect unused medication and leave that medication in unsafe places around the house.

“This has caused untold harm for people who might not otherwise have become addicted if it weren’t for someone else’s neglect,” Shirkey said. “This is becoming an increasingly serious problem in the 16th Senate District. Individuals in our counties have been showing up in emergency rooms multiple times a week because of opioid overdoses.

“So it is critical to our community that opioids are contained, because when they aren’t, they become a source of street drugs and often lead users to end up addicted to more dangerous illicit drugs, such as heroin.”

Other measures in the legislative package include SB 273, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; and SB 274, sponsored by Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy.

SB 273 would require physicians who treat a patient for an opioid-related overdose to provide information to the patient regarding substance use disorder treatments.

To reduce the number of unused opioids in medicine cabinets and on the streets, SB 274 would limit the number of opioids a physician could prescribe to less than 100 morphine milligram equivalents per day.

All three bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy.

Note: For a print-quality version of this and other Shirkey photos, click the image or click Photowire, below.

Photo Caption: Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, (fifth from left) listens as Gov. Rick Snyder addresses the media on Thursday regarding a new bipartisan, bicameral legislative package to address the growing opioid abuse epidemic in Michigan. Senate Bill 272, sponsored by Shirkey, is one of the measures in the package.

Senate committee approves bill that could lower pipe-replacement costs

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Committee on Michigan Competitiveness on Wednesday approved legislation designed to encourage competition and reduce the cost of replacing Michigan’s aging water infrastructure, said Chairman Sen. Mike Shirkey.

“There are thousands of miles of water and sewer pipes across the state, and many of these pipes are getting too old to use,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Replacing the pipes can be expensive, so engineers should have the freedom to choose from all available options in their planning.”

Senate Bill 157, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would help ensure that Michigan communities do not bar qualified materials from consideration for public works projects, potentially enabling communities to save money that could be used for other priorities or passed on to area residents.

SB 157 would require that when state funds are used for water infrastructure projects, all materials that meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or American Water Works Association (AWWA) standards should be considered.

Under the bill, if a pipe or piping material meets or exceeds the recognized standards as determined by the ASTM or AWWA, then a public entity shall not exclude that piping material when soliciting bids for a public works project.

“In the past, there were fewer types of pipe materials available,” Shirkey said. “Today, engineers can choose among a much wider range of materials that meet current standards for safety, strength, temperature and performance. This bill encourages a competitive process that could save taxpayer money while still incorporating the crucial expertise of engineers.”

SB 157 has been sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Photo Advisory: Shirkey reads to Jackson students for March is Reading Month

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, visited students at Lyle A. Torrant Center in Jackson on Monday as part of March is Reading Month. Shirkey emphasized the importance of reading and read aloud to the students from one of his favorite short stories.

Note: For a print-quality version of this and other Shirkey photos, click the image or click Photowire, below.

Shirkey releases survey results on time changes

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey has revealed the results of a survey he posted asking his constituents how they feel about changing their clocks twice a year when daylight saving time begins and ends.

“This month we asked people what should be done with the mandate to change our clocks for daylight saving time, and they replied strongly!” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “More than half of the survey respondents said the twice-a-year changing of the clocks should be eliminated.”

Shirkey’s survey asked, “Do you agree that we should do away with the government-forced, twice a year mandate making us change our lives by changing our clocks?” 56.7 percent of respondents said “Yes,” 42.3 percent said “No,” and 1 percent clicked “Other” and gave a short response.

Rep. Peter Lucido has sponsored House Bill 4011, which would establish eastern daylight time as the time zone for the state. HB 4011 has been referred to the House Commerce and Trade Committee.

‘Telehealth’ bill to go into effect this month

LANSING, Mich. — A law that will encourage the use of telecommunication technologies to expand access to health care services in Michigan, reduce costs and improve patient outcomes goes into effect later this month, said state Senate Health Policy Chairman Sen. Mike Shirkey.

This use of telecommunication — commonly called “telehealth” — can give patients easy access to their doctors and other health professionals.

“We are all becoming more interconnected through cell phones and other personal electronic devices, but not all areas of the medical field have caught up with us yet,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Telehealth has the ability to change the medical landscape through better access to improved care. This new law is a part of that transformation.”

Public Act 359 of 2016 defines telehealth in the state health code as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support or promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, or health administration.

Nationally, it’s estimated that telehealth is expected to increase from the 250,000 patients who utilized the service in 2013 to more than 3 million patients by 2018. Telehealth will benefit health care professional training and consultation between providers.

The law will encourage medical professionals to utilize modern technologies such as live interactive video, audio and others to connect and communicate with patients remotely. Medical professionals will be permitted to diagnose, prescribe and administer referrals within the existing legal framework when providing telehealth services.

The law has received broad support from within the health care community and beyond, including from the U.S. Department of Justice, General Motors, Michigan Association of Health Plans, Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Teledoc, Economic Alliance for Michigan, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Spectrum Health, and Ascension Michigan.

Public Act 359 goes into effect on March 29.

Criminal justice reform bills headed to the governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday sent a bipartisan criminal justice reform package to the governor. The 20-bill package makes reforms throughout the criminal justice system, from probation to prison time to parole and integration back into society.

“The great majority of the more than 40,000 people currently in Michigan prisons will one day return to society, and we must do all we can to help ensure they are productive, contributing citizens when they come back,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “These bipartisan reforms focus on restorative justice and a smarter, more efficient prison system.”

Senate Bills 5-13, 15-24 and 50 include reforms to better track and evaluate recidivism data, expedite medical commutation hearings, encourage partnerships with outside volunteers beneficial to prisoners, and provide a tax credit for employing a probationer or parolee.

Shirkey sponsored Senate Bill 17, which would create incentives to reward regional Michigan Department of Corrections operations for utilizing practices and procedures that reduce parole and probation violations.

The package of bills now heads to the governor to be signed.

Shirkey talks to Jackson students about the importance of reading

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey met in the Senate with students from Sharp Park Academy in Jackson.

Shirkey, R-Clarklake, read to the students and reminded them, “If you learn how to read, you can do just about anything.” He also talked about the importance of parents and teachers promoting reading during March is Reading Month.

Note: Watch the video of Shirkey reading to students and addressing the importance of March is Reading Month. To view other Shirkey videos, click the Video link, at right.