Senate health committee works to address workforce shortages and access issues


Patrick Jones


The Senate Health Policy and Human Services committee continues to focus on addressing the workforce shortage and expanding access to care for vulnerable and underserved Michiganders. 

Last week, committee members discussed Senate Bill 811, which aims to extend the educational, temporary licensure of speech language pathologists (SLPs), and House Bill 4654, which aims to create a rare disease advisory council within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).


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Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) said SLPs have to complete over 1,000 hours of supervised clinical work within 12 months, even after they have graduated and gone through 400 hours of clinical graduate hours. With the rise of pandemic-related precautions like social distancing, proves difficult to get those hours in before the 12-month temporary license expires. 

Once those 12 months are up, SLPs can no longer receive full licensure in Michigan under current law, forcing them to leave the state to receive a full license. Kelli Pierce, vice president of advocacy for the Michigan Speech Language and Hearing Association (MSHA), said students leaving the state further exacerbates an already large workforce shortage of SLPs in the state. 

SB 811 would extend the licensure from 12 to 24 months and also allow for the renewal of the license. “The passage of SB 811 is a critical step to getting more SLPs in the workforce, and skilled services to the individuals in need,” said Pierce. 

HB 4654, sponsored by Rep. Cara Clemente (D-Melvindale), aims to improve health care access for the rare disease community through creating an advisory board that would produce policy recommendations. 

Alex Seasock, Clemente’s legislative director, said Michiganders face an “uphill battle” when trying to find providers to care for their disease. The committee’s recommendations inform the development of legislation to lower costs and expand access for individuals with rare diseases.  

“Some of these policy recommendations would therefore shed insight into Michigan’s unique rare disease landscape, and the need to find more cost effective and better therapeutic options for our residents,” said Seasock. 

The advisory council would remain state-specific and only focus on issues uniquely impacting Michigan. Annissa Reed, state policy manager of the eastern region at the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), said the council will also remain inclusive of the needs of all rare diseases. 

“The bill will provide decision makers in Michigan with the information they need to better understand and meet the needs of Michigan’s diverse rare disease community,” Reed said.

Reed said Michigan would join 21 other states with rare disease advisory councils if it passes HB 4654.