Legislature moves bills on behavioral and physical health integration and prohibiting COVID vaccine passports


Patrick Jones


In the last two months after the return from the Michigan Legislature’s summer break, they have been moving many health-related bills. 

The legislature has been moving bills on behavioral and physical health integration, improving behavioral health services in emergency departments (EDs), and prohibiting government entities from issuing COVID-19 passports or requiring vaccination to enter public services. 


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Behavioral and physical health integration

In the legislature, there are two bill packages that create specialty integrated plans and contract with each community mental health services program aimed at integrating physical and behavioral health and transforming the behavioral health system — one which originated in the House by Rep. Mary Whiteford and one in the Senate by Sen. Mike Shirkey. 

Of these two packages, the Shirkey package — SB 597 and SB 598 — reported favorably to a Committee of the Whole with a substitute. A Committee of the Whole represents the entire Senate body who come together to work on the bills. 

The substitute — (S-2) — will slow the timeline for the transition from the current behavioral health system to be completed by 2030 upon passage. The substitute will also create the Office of Behavioral Health Ombudsman and a behavioral health accountability council within it. The council will monitor the progress of the integration process and complete formal evaluations and proposed recommendations on the status of implementation. 

Expanding emergency department services

The legislature is also moving bills that improve behavioral health services within EDs. The Senate introduced a $350 million supplemental budget bill — SB 714 — which will appropriate federal funds to expand behavioral health services. $100 million from SB 714 to fund additional inpatient psychiatric beds in the state and $20 million to improve behavioral health services in EDs. 

The funding would also go to help attract behavioral health providers to Michigan by expanding funding for the Essential Health Provider Loan Repayment Program. The program would allow psychiatrists to be added to the list of health professionals eligible for loan forgiveness by the state. The bill was referred to the Appropriations Committee last week. 

The legislature also is working on bills which expand medication assisted treatment (MAT) in EDs. HB 5163 is awaiting discussion in the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee and SB 579 is awaiting discussion in the House Health Policy Committee. 

15-bill bipartisan health care package

Another important health care package within the legislature — the 15 bill bipartisan health package — has seen little movement since late March with 13 of the bills still within the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee. 

HB 4359 — which expands the scope of practice for certified registered nurses anesthetists — was made into law in July, and HB 4356 — which allows patients to renew contact lens prescriptions online — sits in a Committee of the Whole in the Senate. 

Vaccine passport prohibition

The legislature also moved bills prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine passports or proof of vaccination to use public services. The bill also prohibits any government entity from producing, issuing, or providing an incentive for proof of vaccination. 

HB 4667 passed the House with a narrow 62-47 margin and was referred to the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee in June. Last week, the committee reported the bill without amendment to the Senate Committee of the Whole, where it awaits testimony.