House Health Policy Committee discusses bills on workforce and opioid treatment expansion

Michigan’s House Health Policy Committee held a meeting last week to discuss several pieces of health-related legislation, including bills that aim to build workforce capacity and policies that would expand access to treatment for those with opioid use disorder (OUD). 

 

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The committee first discussed House Bill 4316 and HB 5089, which aim to increase and incentivize Michigan’s health care workforce in hospitals and in long-term care facilities. 

HB 4316 provides for a certified medication aide (CMA) training and permit program in the state. A CMA is a nursing assistant responsible for administering medication to patients. 

Hearings for this bill originally were held in June, but this meeting added a substitution which adds a sunset provision through 2026. Richie Farran, vice president of government services at the Health Care Association of Michigan, said the sunset provision would allow the legislature to evaluate the efficacy of the CMA registry program in Michigan. 

HB 5089 would modify requirements for nursing aides and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to better fit the pandemic workforce. Modifications include allowing remote learning and training options for CNAs and counting job experience as part of their federally required 75 hours of training, said Farran. 

In Michigan, Farran said there has been a 30% decrease in health care workers throughout the pandemic — the majority of them are frontline nurses. The decrease, in conjunction with continued burnout amongst health care professionals, necessitates this new bill to address administrative barriers, said Farran. 

“We’re to the point where we have already seen a lot of burnout from staff and they need all the support they can get. The more staff the better. The decrease is real. These are not necessarily a silver bullet, but I think they are tools that help to attract and retain. These, along with a number of other policies, can help to greatly improve the situation.”

Next, the committee heard testimony on HB 5163 and HB 5166, which aim to expand access to treatment in emergency departments (EDs) and in community-based organizations for those with OUD. 

Rep. Angela Witwer, sponsor of HB 5163, said:

“HB 5163 will expand capacity to treat opioid overdoses in emergency departments, a key interception point for people who use drugs where we see a high risk of overdose upon discharge.”

The bill would increase resources to allow EDs to provide medication assisted treatment (MAT) in an ED setting. It would also give hospitals specific overdose care protocols including providing warm hand-offs to community-based care organizations. Jared Welehodsky, senior analyst at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), said:

“Emergency department-based access to medication assisted treatment will increase connections to treatment while supporting medical professionals and their care of patients.”

The bill would create a grant from MDHHS and would require hospitals to demonstrate they have the proper capacity to meet all the requirements of the new protocols. He also said the bill would improve connections between hospitals and community-based treatment centers. 

HB 5166 would increase access to naloxone — a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses as they occur — by allowing community-based organizations to distribute the drug. Currently, under a 2016 standing order law, pharmacists can give the drug without a prescription, similar to an over-the-counter drug. Allowing community-based organizations to distribute the drug would alleviate another barrier to treatment, said Welehodsky. 

Rep. Mary Whiteford, sponsor of the bill, said a recent study found only 25% of opioid users had access to the drug.

“This will truly help persons struggling with addiction to have that second chance to conquer their addiction. Through this legislation, we can give community organizations, and the families that go there, hope that they can make a difference when it is most needed.”

All bills were reported to the House floor for their second reading.