5 Things Michigan: Abortion policy confusion, Health data sharing pledge, School BH funding


Eli Kirshbaum


Gov. Whitmer signed the official FY 22-23 budget on June 20th, finalizing investments in behavioral health, public health, emergency response, and more. See an overview of health items in the budget here.

This month’s newsletter features MDHHS’s input on abortion policy in the aftermath of the Roe v. Wade overturn, a pledge from a group of social care organizations to openly share health information, and a new slew of funding for school-based mental health services.

Thanks for reading!

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform


1. MDHHS affirms abortion is still legal amid confusion

Michigan abortion policy remains in a state of confusion after the overturn of Roe v. Wade prompted some officials to claim that a 1931 state law banning all abortions is now in effect. According to Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Chief Medical Executive at MDHHS, this confusion could potentially scare providers out of offering abortion-related services. While a Court of Appeals decision on Monday ruled an injunction on the 1931 law didn’t apply to county prosecutors, Whitmer’s office announced hours later that they’d received approval for a temporary restraining order on the decision.

MDHHS has been working to make it clear to Michiganders that abortion is still legal in the state while this judicial battle continues. MDHHS partnered with the Michigan Health Alert Network to disseminate educational information to health professionals about the status of state abortion policy in an effort to safeguard abortion care. The department is also advocating for Medicaid coverage of doula care and the expansion of home-based visiting programs for new moms to further protect these rights.


2. Social services companies pledge to openly share health data

In an effort to achieve a more interconnected health information sharing system in the state, the Michigan Health Information Network facilitated a pledge between 6 prominent social care companies to commit to eliminating health information siloes and openly sharing health data with each other. The signatories are CareAdvisors, findhelp, PCE Systems, RiverStar, UniteUs, and WellSky.

The central goal of the pledge is to allow health care providers to have easier access to SDOH-related patient data, regardless of the health information vendor they use. “Having access to information about not just the medical treatment but the realities of a person’s day to day creates appropriate care plans that meet the individual’s needs,” said Lisa Nicolaou, the Director of Cross Sector Data Sharing for Social Needs at MiHIN.

3. What They’re Watching: Dominick Pallone, Michigan Association of Health Plans

Dominick Pallone, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans, is focused on reforming Medicaid behavioral health by advocating for the creation of specialty integrated plans (SIPs) in the legislature. Pallone talked about how SB 597 and SB 598 can improve health outcomes for Michiganders.

Pallone said MAHP is working through the obstacles they’ve encountered at the capitol around the SIP legislation, keeping the overall health of MAHP’s members in mind. “We truly believe that through an integrated platform financially, operationally, and clinically, we can get better overall health outcomes for the individual.”


4. School mental health services receive significant funding through budget

The Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students program received $50 million from the recently signed FY 2023 budget. The program’s services center around 3 pillars: Tier 1, which provides a K-12 curriculum to teach students how to cope with life struggles, Tier 2, which trains school staff on how to conduct early intervention for children who might be experiencing a mental health challenge, and Tier 3, which helps schools identify students who might be at risk of suicide and provide crisis stabilization.

The funding will help expand the TRAILS program, which currently partners with 50 of Michigan’s 56 school districts and serves over 700 schools. “There’s really strong data that shows that when you take an academic environment and you blend in some of these social and emotional skills to the classroom, you’ll see broad improvements on academic achievement attainment, reduced absenteeism, [and] better classroom behavior,” said Elizabeth Koschmann, Founder and Executive Director of TRAILS.


5. Major reforms to tobacco sale laws

Gov. Whitmer recently signed several bills that aim to “protect public health and keep dangerous tobacco products out of the hands of our young people.” The “Tobacco 21” package raises the minimum age for purchasing nicotine products to 21.

The “Tobacco 21” package also includes HB 6108, which amends the Youth Tobacco Act to impose penalties for tobacco sales to underage Michiganders for up to $100 on the first offense, up to $500 on the second offense, and up to $2,500 for all subsequent offenses. The package also includes HB 6109, which prohibits individuals under 21 from entering tobacco retail stores, and SB 576, which requires those selling tobacco through mail to verify that recipients are over 21.