Schuitmaker legislation continues the fight against prescription drug abuse

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LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on Thursday joined Gov. Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, colleagues from both the House and Senate, along with members of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Taskforce to address additional measures to help curb the epidemic currently facing our state.

“Cases of addiction and overdoses have increased exponentially since the early 2000s,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “The Legislature is quickly acting to curb the problem as much as possible, but we need help and we have a lot of work to do.”

Schuitmaker argues that the situation cannot be addressed only through legislation. There are multiple pieces of legislation in the works that seek to attack this problem from all angles, but she argues that additional resources are necessary.

“Several of the attendees at Thursday’s conference served on the task force and represented their respective professions very well,” Schuitmaker said. “These are doctors, judges, addiction specialists and family members that have gone through this. This diverse group of individuals brings a great deal of additional resources to the table, and that gives us in the Legislature a true look at how various pieces of legislation can be effectively implemented.”

The Southwest Michigan senator is among the most active voices against the opioid epidemic. She was instrumental in getting legislation that made naloxone available to law enforcement and families of at-risk individuals to the governor’s desk for approval. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that has been proven to successfully reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

She is also the lead behind legislation that would require doctors who prescribe Schedule II through Schedule V controlled substances to use the Michigan Automated Prescription System, a system designed by the state aimed at reducing illegal diversion between doctors, pharmacists and patients.

“MAPS is a great tool that unfortunately, many physicians don’t use at all, or don’t use properly,” Schuitmaker said. “A new and improved version of the system is going live next month and my bills would require doctors to keep thorough records of their patient’s prescriptions through the new and improved database.”

The other main theme repeated by the governor and others on stage was that we need to work on a culture change. He stressed the importance of education and the importance of people getting the help they need before they fall into the criminal justice system.

Schuitmaker agreed.

“In an effort to attack this issue from yet another angle, I recently introduced Senate Bills 236 and 237, which would facilitate the development of a lesson plan that outlines the dangers of prescription drugs to be used in our schools,” she said. “Our children are unaware of the dangers that prescription drugs can present due to the misconception that they are safe since a doctor prescribed them. In order to educate our communities, we need to focus on this connection between prescription drugs and heroin.”

SBs 166 and 167, which would require doctors to use MAPS when prescribing certain medications, were introduced on Feb. 15 and have been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy.

SBs 236 and 237 were introduced on March 14 and were also referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy.

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Editor’s note: A print-quality version of the above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com/photowire.

Photo caption: Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, attends a press conference with fellow legislators, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Gov. Rick Snyder and other Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Taskforce members to discuss the importance of ending the opioid overdose and abuse epidemic in Michigan.