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News & Press: NASW-Michigan News

NASW-Michigan and Advocates Stop Harmful Medicaid Policy

Friday, December 1, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Social workers and advocacy partners were able to stop a policy that would have taken hundreds to thousands out of the treatment field in Michigan on January 1st. According to the policy proposed by the Medical Services Administration of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, social workers, recovery coaches, peer supports, and other qualified treatment providers with past criminal convictions would have been unable to work for any agency accepting Medicaid. The list of convictions included minor charges such as shoplifting, juvenile offenses, drug possession, and prostitution dating back ten years, with some dating back further.


Geralyn Lasher, a spokesperson for the department, said because of the large number of comments complaining about the proposed rule the department will make changes. "We've seen success and we've seen importance to the peer support counselors and the peer-to-peer types of counseling that goes on," she said. "So the concern is that with the draft rules . . . as it's written, that could prohibit some of those peer support specialists or peer counselors from continuing in that work, and that's something obviously we do not want - we don't want to cause something like that to happen."


In a letter written to the department by Allan Wachendorfer, NASW-Michigan’s policy director, he said “The people who provide the best treatment and support to the mentally ill and/or people with substance abuse issues are often those who have faced similar challenges in life . . . they are people who have done the hard work in their recovery programs, satisfied the terms of the courts, and are now using those lived experiences to make a significant impact on others with a similar story.”


To be clear, it is important that we protect vulnerable people and that may have been the intent of this proposal. However, as written, it was far too broad. In fact, in a letter to the department, Elmer Cerano, executive director of the Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, called "the expanded scope of the policy pointless for the most vulnerable people" because the policy also granted a broad waiver of its rules to those who work in home help services.


There are already protections in place across the healthcare sector for our most vulnerable citizens. Agencies and licensure boards have strict policies that include criminal background checks to screen out potentially dangerous people. This policy would have taken that discretion out of the hands of treatment providers and those who know best by making sweeping changes, impacting the treatment workforce, public safety, and most importantly, the people that need treatment.


The department said well over 300 comments were received prior to the end of the comment period November 20th. Over 200 of those were routed through NASW-Michigan’s advocacy alert system. NASW-Michigan policy staff will be monitoring the rewrite of this policy closely and will alert members if anything of concern arises. If you have questions or comments about the proposed policy or NASW-Michigan’s stance, please contact us at


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