CNS Budget – April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018 – Week 11

To: CNS Editors

From: Eric Freedman & Sheila Schimpf

http://news.jrn.msu.edu/capitalnewsservice/

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841; cepak@msu.edu.

For other matters, contact CNS Director Eric Freedman at (517) 355-4729 or (517) 256-3873; freedma5@msu.edu.

 

Here’s your file:

NATIVEHISTORY: Officials are taking a hard look at state historical markers that are offensive or inaccurate about Native Americans and ignore their contributions to Michigan and the Great Lakes region. One marker has been removed on Mackinac Island, where the state is converting a historic fur trader’s house to a Native American museum. Kalamazoo is removing a controversial statue showing settlers conquering native peoples. We talk to the Michigan Historic Center, Mackinac State Historic Parks and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. By Maxwell Evans. FOR ST. IGNACE, BAY MILLS, CHEBOYGAN, SAULT STE. MARIE, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, TRAVERSE CITY AND ALL POINTS.

w/NATIVEHISTORYPHOTO: Historic Biddle House on Mackinac Island was once a fur trader’s home and will become a Native American history museum. Credit: Creative Commons.

BODYCAMS: Michigan’s body cam privacy law took effect this year. Law enforcement officers are divided on their desirability and usefulness, citing questions about cost, privacy and effectiveness. Sheriff and police departments weigh in, including Montcalm County, Macomb County, Howell and Grand Valley State University. By Crystal Chen. FOR GREENVILLE, IONIA,  LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

RURALBIKING: Bicycle safety in rural areas is of great concern. One approach is increasing the use of trails for non-motorized vehicles, such as the White Pine Trail between Comstock Park and Cadillac, and the Kal-Haven Trail between Kalamazoo and South Haven. Some communities have bike-friendly “complete street” plans, including Manistique, Sault Ste. Marie and Lansing. We talk to the DNR, League of Michigan Bicyclists, Pere Marquette Snowmobile Club in Evart. By Maxwell Evans. FOR CADILLAC, BIG RAPIDS, GREENVILLE, HERALD-REVIEW, HOLLAND, SAULT STE. MARIE, MARQUETTE, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

FOSTERPARENTS: There’s a strong need for foster parents in Michigan where five out of every 1,000 children are in foster care, a tough but rewarding task. We talk to two nonprofit groups that promote foster parenting and to the Department of Health and Human Services. By Crystal Chen. FOR ALL POINTS.

TELEHEALTH: Telehealth services were promoted as a less expensive and faster way to get health care to residents of rural areas, but there are concerns by doctors and patients. We talk to a health care service in Marquette, the medical officer in District 10, which covers much of the northern Lower Peninsula, and the Michigan State Medical Society. By Agnes Bao. FOR MARQUETTE, LUDINGTON, CRAWFORD COUNTY, MANISTEE, LAKE COUNTY, CADILLAC, BIG RAPIDS, OCEANA, BAY MILLS. SAULT STE. MARIE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS.

TEENSUICIDES: Suicide rates among teenagers nationally are at a 40-year high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the rate among girls rising faster than among boys. Nobody knows the precise reasons. We talk to anti-suicide activists from Grand Haven and Muskegon County. By Gloria Nzeka. FOR HOLLAND, OCEANA, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

RENEWABLENERGY: DTE Energy’s new plan submitted to the Public Service Commission promises to double its use of renewable energy by 2021, but critics say the utility’s plan doesn’t go far enough. They also question the need to build a new natural gas-fired plant in St. Clair County. The company provides electricity in Southeast Michigan and natural gas in much of the state. We talk to DTE Energy, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and Michigan Environmental Council. By Kaley Fech. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, HOLLAND, LUDINGTON, OCEANA, MANISTEE, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, MONTMORENCY, ALCONA, CLARE, GLADWIN, CRAWFORD COUNTY, CHEBOYGAN, MARQUETTE, BIG RAPIDS, CADILLAC, BENZIE, HERALD-STAR AND ALL POINTS.

HEPATITIS: Vaccination efforts by local health departments and the state have helped reduce the hepatitis A outbreak that started in 2016, infected 797 people in 32 counties and caused 25 deaths. The Department of Health and Human Services tells how it and local health departments (District 4, Benzie-Leelanau, Northwest Michigan) have battled the disease, apparently ending the outbreak. By Casey Hull. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, MONTMORENCY, BENZIE, CHEBOYGAN, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

VEHICLEMISSIONS: The EPA is considering lower emission standards for new vehicles. Environmentalists say that would be a step backward. A poll last year found that more than seven out of 10 Michiganders favor the current vehicle emission standard, with only 21 percent supporting a lower standard..We hear from the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association, Michigan Environmental Council and the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. By Agnes Bao. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS.

LABORSHORTAGE: A shortage of skilled workers has left manufacturers struggling to fill openings. Baker College in Cadillac has a program to help fill the skills gap, as do Henry Ford College and Oakland Community College. The Michigan Manufacturers Association discusses the problems. By Riley Murdock. FOR CADILLAC, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS.

w/LABORSHORTAGEPHOTO1: Baker College of Cadillac’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation. Credit: Mark Lagerwey.

w/LABORSHORTAGEPHOTO2: Baker College of Cadillac’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation. Credit: Mark Lagerwey.

ADDICTIONTREATMENT: New research and a recently announced federal investigation may lead to more states using addiction treatment medications such as methadone for prisoners struggling with substance abuse behind bars. We hear from the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department, a Muskegon Correctional Facility sergeant and an ex-addict from Ottawa County. By Colton Wood. FOR HOLLAND, IONIA, GREENVILLE, MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

OPIOIDS: Tougher rules on opioid prescriptions may make it tougher for hospice services to provide pain medication for dying patients. We hear from Hospice of Michigan. Lawmakers from from Manton, Clare and Bainbridge have a proposal to address that problem. By Riley Murdock. FOR CADILLAC, CLARE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

SEXEDUCATION: Amid widespread attention to sexual assault, schools would be required to revamp how they teach about affirmative consent in sex ed classes under a proposal by a Mason lawmaker, with a Calumet cosponsor. We also hear from an Ingham County senator, the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence based in Okemos and the MEA. By Colton Wood. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE, MARQUETTE AND ALL POINTS.

POLICEDIVERSITY: Law enforcement agencies are struggling to recruit a more diverse pool of officers and deputies. Reasons include public perceptions of law enforcement officers, the cost of training and lack of information about careers. We hear about the Holland Police Department’s efforts and talk to the Howell police chief, the Oakland Police Academy and Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. By Gloria Nzeka. FOR HOLLAND, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

CNS

No change in emission standards needed, experts say

By AGNES BAO
Capital News Service

LANSING –  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is suggesting that federal current emission standards for new vehicles for the model years 2022-25 are too stringent and said it will consider a lower standard.

But in terms of the auto industry and the environment, some experts in Michigan say they don’t think the current standard is inappropriate.

The current standard for new cars and trucks is 163 grams of carbon dioxide per mile by 2025, or a car able to get 54.5 miles per gallon of gas, according to the EPA.

The reasons for adjusting the standard include gas prices and consumer acceptance of advanced technology vehicles, according to the EPA.

For the auto industry, “there is technology available to meet the standard,” said Brett Smith, the assistant director of manufacturing, engineering and technology research group at the Center for Automotive Research based in Ann Arbor.

The problem is not whether the current standard is easy to meet or not, Smith said. “The problem is, at least in the United States, that American consumers are not showing an interest in paying for that technology.”

“Most consumers value fuel economy, but they value other thing greater than fuel economy, such as a heated seat, a GPS guidance system or touch screen radio,” he said.

For automobile dealers, complying with the standard is important but “we also have to be able to give consumers the type of vehicle that they want, desire and need to live their life,” said Terry Burns, the executive vice president at the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association.

The price of a vehicle significantly affects consumers’ choices, Burns said.

In 2008 and 2009, when gas prices were high, an increasing number of consumers bought smaller vehicles, but as soon as the price came down, more people wanted and needed larger vehicles, he said.

Charlotte Jameson, the director of energy policy and legislative affairs at the Michigan Environmental Council, an advocacy group, said, “We do not believe that the current standard is too strict.

“Lower vehicle emission standards would negatively impact the public health of Michiganders and the state’s air quality,” Jameson said.

Vehicle emissions are linked to hazardous gases, such as nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide, she said. “Exposure to air that is polluted by these hazardous emissions leads to higher rates of asthma and other respiratory conditions and can increase the risk of cancer and premature death.”

Vehicle emissions standards have helped cut pollution from cars and trucks by about 90 percent since 1998, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

More than seven out of 10 Michiganders favor the current vehicle emission standard, with only 21 percent supporting a lower standard, according to a 2017 poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, based in Washington, D.C.

Jameson said the standard “drives innovation and technological advances,” as well as benefiting air quality.

“Rolling back standards that are successfully cleaning up the air we breathe and saving us money at the pump is the wrong way to go,” she said.

Withdrawal drugs, banned in Michigan prisons, show promise elsewhere

By COLTON WOOD
Capital News Service

LANSING — New evidence by Brown University and a recently announced federal investigation may lead to more states allowing the use of addiction treatment medications to prisoners struggling with substance abuse behind bars.

Currently, Rhode Island is the only state that provides its inmates with all three FDA-approved addiction medications — methadone, buprenorphine and a form of naltrexone called Vivitrol.

Brown University researchers concluded that providing inmates with medication to treat addiction not only reduces overdose deaths after they’re released but increases inmates’ chances of avoiding arrest in the future.

In Michigan, the use of such medications by drug-addicted inmates is prohibited.

“When an inmate comes in, we screen them to see if they’re on anything,” Lt. Ebony Simmons-Rasco of the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department said.

“And if they are on anything, they put them on a withdrawal protocol, which means they go and check their vitals because they’re not going to get anything. A lot of drugs aren’t allowed in the facility,” Simmons-Rasco said.

She said those inmates are put into a withdrawal program and monitored for fluid intake, vital signs and behavioral changes.

However, methadone, which is itself addictive, can be used in Michigan if an inmate is pregnant and needs the medication.

Simmons-Rasco said one reason drugs are restricted is because people lie.

“The problem that we have in prisons is when you administer drugs to some people, people lie,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m on this, and I need to be on the withdrawal protocol.’”

Then when they get such medication as methadone, inmates may keep it in their mouths, she said. “We have a problem with people hoarding meds, so that’s why certain medications aren’t allowed in the facility.”

Muskegon Correctional Facility Sgt. Alexander Thompson agrees with Simmons-Rasco and said he doesn’t see Michigan changing its policies regarding substance withdrawal medication in its prisons.

“My experience with what this particular problem presents is not them gaining the medication and getting out,” Thompson said. “It’s them getting out of prison and affording the medication when they’re out in society.

“It’s the key contributing factor. In our facility, we can monitor medication in a very controlled environment. But when they’re out of here, their willingness or ability is drastically reduced,” he said.

Jenn Thompson is very familiar with substance addiction.

Thompson struggled with hard drugs for five years. She had hit rock bottom after she was arrested for possessing cocaine with the intent to sell it. She was released from jail after serving one weekend and was placed on probation. Then a friend overdosed while the two were snorting cocaine.

She had no rent money, but had plenty of cocaine. She called her dad, confessed and asked for help.

“I had just turned 21,” she said. “I relapsed once and cleaned up. At 22 — pregnant. And never went back.”

Thompson, who is now an advocate against drug use and has been clean since 2003, said she firmly believes medication should be available to any inmate suffering from addiction.

“They should get medicine for safe withdrawal,” she said. “Opiates and alcohol have deadly withdrawals — literally deadly for some. And then skills and strategies to not reuse on release. It is cruel and unusual punishment to not give a person medical treatment for withdrawal.”

May a diversified force be with us, police say

By Gloria Nzeka

Capital News Service

LANSING — As police departments across the state are recruiting their next class of officers and deputies, they’re confronted with the lack of diversity within their ranks.

Some local departments, including the Holland Police Department, are actively recruiting a more diverse group of recruits.

Robert Stevenson, the executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said that for some reason, it’s very difficult to attract people to the profession.

“Diversity is something we are striving for, we’re working very hard to get there. The problem within a lot of communities and even among women is that the profession is just not attractive,”  Stevenson said.

David Ceci, director of the Oakland Police Academy in Auburn Hills, said diversity is more than what people often make of it.

“We often get stuck on ‘it’s black and white’ but diversity is greater than just that. We’ve got to look at gender, sexuality and religion. Those are all aspects that we need to focus on,” Ceci said.

The state Commission on Law Enforcement Standards has over 50 positions it’s recruiting for. To attract a diverse pool of applicants, police officials have been visiting schools, colleges and universities.

Stevenson, of the Association of Chiefs of Police, said one factor that limits efforts to make police departments better reflect Michigan’s diverse population is the cost of training to become a cop.

While the State Police covers training costs for its recruits, local police departments don’t.

“Many police departments cannot afford to send someone to the police academy,” Stevenson said. “They have to hire someone who has already put themselves through the police academy, which costs between $5,000 to $6,000 for tuition, and it takes 14 weeks to get through it.”

Besides tuition and books, students still need to purchase uniforms, firearms and other necessities. And that can come up to $7,000 or $8,000 for students to pay their way through the academy, Ceci said.

“There aren’t many candidates who can afford to spend that kind of money and time, especially in some minority communities,” Stevenson said. However, he said, the Association of Chiefs of Police looked at what other states have done, and the state could pick up the cost for a local police recruit’s training.

Adding to the cost of education is the loss of wages because most people can’t work while going through the academy. It’s time-consuming, said Ceci. If they do work, it’s usually part time.

Ceci said the career is demanding and people don’t necessarily want to give up weekends or holidays to work.

“It’s seven days a week, 24 hours a day, all day.” He also said that some of the expected perks  in law enforcement aren’t there. “Nationwide, not just in law enforcement, not just in Michigan pensions and health care benefits are being reduced and are going away.”

Ceci said there’s a need for better recruiting. “We need to start younger —  getting into schools with children at a young age so that they can see a positive police figure. Maybe that will change some perceptions earlier in the experiences of children.”

The Holland Police Department has put in place initiatives that expose local youth to careers in law enforcement.

Capt. Keith Mulder said the department’s Junior Police Academy and Citizens Police Academy are programs aimed at exposing youth and adults from diverse backgrounds to such careers.

“The Junior Police Academy targets junior high school students in our community, with many of them being from different ethnic backgrounds,” Mulder said. “It promotes teamwork, character, commitment and fitness, and exposes them to different aspects of law enforcement and our department.”

He also said Holland officers are involved in the schools, mentoring students and working with organizations that promote good life choices, education, professional direction and character among minority groups.

The Holland Police Department’s strategy to address the issue of diversity is recruiting at a variety of colleges with criminal justice programs, Mulder said.

The department also runs a cadet program, which is a part-time job for college students who want to go into criminal justice. Recruits come from high schools in the area and get experience and exposure to what a career in law enforcement is all about, he said.

A recent study found a lack of diversity in the Ann Arbor Police Department. At the time of the study, the department had 122 officers. Only 22.9 percent were female, and 17.2 percent belonged to an ethnic group other than white.

The report, by independent consulting firm Hillard Heintze, prompted the department to develop plans that include having a diverse mix of recruits.

Howell Police Chief George Basar said that what’s shown in the media may contribute to a lack of diversity.

Police officers in some minority communities do “some incredibly stupid things, which paint the entire profession with a broad brush,” said Basar, a past president of the Association of Chiefs of Police.

Ceci, of the Oakland Police Academy, said news stories paint a negative picture of police-community relations always being a race-related issue, and that deters some minority candidates who might want to get into the field.

The current divide isn’t all the police’s fault or all the community’s fault, he said. “I think it’s a little bit of both.

“Both sides need to come to the table and be willing to listen and learn a little bit about each other. I think that will help greatly in improving perceptions of law enforcement, and in turn, increase our recruitment prospects in diverse communities,” he said.

Rural bicyclists, mindful of road deaths, look for safer measures

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — For bicyclists, a 2016 crash that killed five and left four injured is still a potent reminder of the importance of protecting non-motorized vehicles that take the road.

“That was an event that has been unprecedented in Michigan history,” said Aneta Kiersnowski, communications director for the League of Michigan Bicyclists. “The attention that the tragedy brought to the issue of bicycling safety really helped bring about positive solutions.”

The crash in rural Cooper Township, north of Kalamazoo, highlighted some of the issues with rural biking that the Legislature and local governments have since aimed to address.

Ten Michigan cities have adopted “complete street” ordinances and resolutions in response to a 2010 law that aimed to make all roads accessible for both motorized and non-motorized traffic. These cities include Manistique, Sault Ste. Marie and Lansing.

However, Kiersnowski said there were factors in that crash that could not have been prevented with improved legislation.

Charles Pickett, Jr., the driver of the pickup truck that hit the nine bicyclists, faces charges including five counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death. Investigators have not determined exactly why Pickett was driving so erratically.

Jury selection for Pickett’s trial is scheduled to start April 23.

Because of the Cooper Township incident — and the rate at which incidents involving motorized vehicles and bicyclists could be prevented — Kiersnowski said the League of Michigan Bicyclists is trying to get people to stop using the word “accident” in reference to those incidents. The organization prefers the term “crash.”

One of the best ways to ensure bicyclists’ safety in rural areas? Maintain dedicated trails, according to Scott Slavin, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) unit manager for William Mitchell State Park and the White Pine Trail.

The White Pine, a 94-mile trail between Comstock Park and Cadillac, runs along the former Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad.

Outside of the snowy season, there is no motorized traffic allowed on the White Pine.

“That’s definitely a safety factor and a comfort factor,” Slavin said. “Most people that use it know that there’s not going to be motor vehicle traffic, so if they’re taking small children they feel comfortable riding bikes down there.”

Kiersnowski said that while rural trails do have their benefits, they may not be as safe as they might seem, given the wide variety of speeds at which walkers, bicyclists and motorized traffic use them.

“They’re not necessarily safer because they are multi-user trails most of the time,” Kiersnowski said. “Although smaller, more rural areas do a lot to build up their trails, it shouldn’t be the end-all be-all for bicycle safety.”

During the winter, a large northern portion of the trail is open to snowmobiles. Slavin said that due to the efforts of the Pere Marquette Snowmobile Club, based in Evart, to maintain the trail — like clearing it of brush for better sight lines — fat-tire bikes and snowmobiles have been able to co-exist without any concerns.

The Snowmobile Club’s efforts are an example of how the DNR partners with local non-profits and volunteer groups to maintain the White Pine Trail, Slavin said.

This collaboration with local organizations on day-to-day maintenance is often necessary, as inconsistent funding from the federal levels can leave parks holding the bill.

The financial uncertainty of the Kal-Haven Trail, which runs between Kalamazoo and South Haven, speaks to that point. The Kal-Haven has gained and lost various features over the years, such as a shuttle program for one-way bikers and a trail pass system to pay for maintenance.

Nearly $50 million in federal funds through the Transportation Alternatives Program were available to the state in fiscal year 2016, according to data compiled by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that preserves unused rail corridors for use as bike trails.

That was up drastically from a 10-year low of just under $10 million in 2009, but below 2006’s peak of $65 million.

This program authorizes funding for programs and projects defined as transportation alternatives, including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Hepatitis A vaccinations slowing state outbreak, health officials say

By CASEY HULL
Capital News Service

LANSING — Vaccination efforts by local health departments have helped reduce the hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan, officials say.

The outbreak that started in August 2016 infected 797 people across 32 counties and resulted in 25 deaths.

The hepatitis A virus is found in the feces of people with hepatitis A. It can be transmitted through contaminated food or water, sexual intercourse or living with an infected individual.

Symptoms include fever, yellowing of the skin and eyes, belly pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, joint pain, nausea and vomiting.

“When we started to see three, four or five cases consistently (in the summer of 2016), we knew we were dealing with something that looked like an outbreak and needed additional attention,” said Jay Fielder, the manager of the Department of Health and Human Services surveillance and infectious disease and epidemiology section.

An outbreak is an abnormal number of cases. The  department considers any county with two or more cases to be a part of the outbreak area.

The Legislature appropriated $7.1 million last November for the department to deal with hepatitis A, with $4 million earmarked to purchase vaccines and $3.1 million to local health departments for outreach and additional staffing. The majority of the funding went to the highest need districts. In March, each non-outbreak district received $20,000 dollars for preventative efforts.

“Even though we didn’t have any activity in our area at that time and we hadn’t received any funding, we began ramping up our activities,” Joshua Myerson said. He is the medical director for District Health Department 4, which covers Cheboygan, Montmorency, Alpena and Presque Isle counties, for the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department and for  the Health District of Northwest Michigan.

“The health department provided notification and guidance to local area health providers,” he said. Providers were told to actively look for symptoms of hepatitis A.  

“It’s not something that we would typically think about because we don’t see many hepatitis cases in the area,” said Myerson.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulates vaccine distribution to states. Health and Human Services pays the CDC $25.73 per dose, and local health departments then distribute the vaccine at little to no charge.

Over 117,000 doses have been provided in Michigan since the beginning of the outbreak.

The groups most susceptible to infection from hepatitis A are transient and homeless people, men who have sex with other men and substance abusers, according to Health and Human Services.

In the outbreak, 50.6 percent of confirmed cases in Michigan had a history of substance abuse, the department said.

“Part of what we did is reach out to our substance abuse treatment centers, like Harbor Hall in Petoskey,” Myerson said. “We’re hoping to use this additional funding to double back and see if there is anyone we missed.”

Some people are more difficult to reach than others.

Fielder said illiteracy and a lack of access to information sources that the general public receives makes messaging to homeless people difficult.

The vaccine can provide immunization for infected individuals within the first two weeks that they’re infected.

Meyerson said, “If we vaccinate you within 10 days of being exposed to the virus, that vaccine can provide you protection so you don’t get sick. A completed schedule of doses will provide lifetime protection.”

Hepatitis A has an incubation period of between 10 and 50 days.

During that time, an infected individual can spread the disease without showing any signs or symptoms.

Fielder said, “In all hepatitis cases, there is a follow-up by local health departments.”

The goal is to assess whether there’s a common source of the infection and to look at a patient’s potential exposure to family, roommates and workplaces, Fielder said.

“Identifying people who may have had contact with the patient is a very effective way of mitigating the spread of the virus,” Fielder said.

In 20 percent of cases reported during the  outbreak, local health departments were unable to follow up with patients.

“Some people don’t want to talk to the health department when they call and some people don’t necessarily give correct information when they seek health care, but the health department does try and initiate follow-up with every case,” Fielder said.

“People who are using substances that are illegal, they don’t necessarily want to be contacted and they don’t necessarily want to participate in a follow-up,” he said.

Creating a coordinated response across state agencies prompted the attorney general to activate the state emergency operations center.

“Given the impact upon multiple jurisdictions, this entire effort could benefit from coordination amongst the state agencies,” said Fielder.

“In this situation, there were seven state agencies involved in the response,” said Dale George, the public information officer for the state emergency operations center.

The goal of the operation center was to spread information to people at risk of the disease, along with food providers and first responders, Dale said.

“Every emergency or disaster begins and ends locally,” Dale said. “We’re here to make sure that communities get the help they need.”

Vaccination is also encouraged for people not considered to be at risk, Meyerson said. “For those who don’t fall in those risk groups but are concerned and want protection, there is no shortage of vaccine and they can get vaccinated.”

Rethinking, retelling Native American roles in Great Lakes history

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — History officials want historical areas to better reflect Native Americans’ contributions to the Great Lakes State.

This push for accurate native representation comes as the state is putting some of its historical markers under greater scrutiny.

The Michigan Historical Commission has worked with the state’s 12 federally recognized tribes to improve the markers, according to Sandra Clark, the director of the Michigan History Center.

“We have not done a good job about telling our stories either from [natives’] perspective or telling the stories that acknowledge that they’re still a vital part of Michigan’s population,” Clark said. “Some of this is not immediately apparent to the casual reader, but we really could do better.”

Using Mackinac Island as “a test case,” the Historical Commission has begun reviewing some markers — many of which date to the 1950s and 1960s. It’s already identified many of them as too narrowly focused, according to Clark.

“Most of the older markers are written from a very Euro-American perspective,” Clark said. “They say that so-and-so discovered Lake Michigan — of course, Native Americans, indigenous people, had known Lake Michigan was there for a very long time before the first Frenchman found out it was there.”

A subcommittee report with recommendations for how to move forward with changes to historical markers is on the agenda for the commission’s  April 18 meeting in Lansing.

One of the most egregious offenders was a 1959 marker on Mackinac Island recognizing a replica “bark chapel.” The original chapels were  huts used by Jesuit missionaries who lived among Native American tribes throughout the Great Lakes.

The marker, which referred to the colonizing French as “courageous” for turning the “minds of the savages to Christianity,” was removed more than 25 years ago, according to Phil Porter, the Mackinac State Historic Parks director.

“The key thing was to get it out of the public eye because it was offensive and it’s just taken some time to get it rewritten in an appropriate manner,” Porter said.

The agency still holds on to the marker, although Porter said he’s unsure if it’s in storage or where its exact location is.

It’s unlikely that the marker will ever see the light of day again. Porter said it would be put on display again only if given the proper context about its offensiveness — something the Mackinac Island park “doesn’t have the space” to do.

Removing the sign instead of adding context was the right choice, said Eric Hemenway, director of repatriation, archives and records for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, a federally recognized tribe in Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

Hemenway said he was okay with preserving the marker for use as part of a larger educational program, but continuing to display it in public — even with the proper context — would do more harm than good.

“It’s one of the most offensive signs I’ve ever seen anywhere, and it speaks to pure colonialism and one-sided history,” Hemenway said. “It really reflects how many Americans still viewed natives throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century.”

Although no replacement has gone up in the quarter-century since the original Mackinac Island marker was removed, replacing a single marker isn’t the only way to better tell the stories of the island’s native people, Porter said.

Mackinac State Historic Parks intends to turn the Biddle House — the former home of fur traders Edward and Agatha Biddle — into a Native American history museum “in the near future.”

Agatha Biddle was an Ojibwa whose regional connections were crucial to the family’s business success, according to the agency’s website. Interestingly, a 1960 historical marker outside the Biddle House makes little mention of Agatha, with the only reference coming in the sentence, “For years he lived here with his Indian wife.”

In addition, M-185 — the non-motorized state highway encircling Mackinac Island — has become the Native American Cultural History Trail. Six stations along the highway detail Native American contributions to Mackinac Island and Great Lakes history.

Changes in the works go further than the History Commission. In Kalamazoo, the city commission voted to remove the “Fountain of the Pioneers” in downtown Bronson Park.

The fountain, designed by Alfonso Iannelli — a colleague of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright — depicts a westward-facing settler standing above a Native American. The park is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The decision to remove the fountain comes after a controversy over its appropriateness dating back to its dedication.

“The Indian is shown in a posture of noble resistance, yet being absorbed as the white man advances,” Iannelli said in a statement to the Kalamazoo Public Library in 1940, the year of the fountain’s completion.

Porter said by removing offensive items, Native Americans aren’t the only people who benefit from better native representation — all visitors to historic places across the state seem to enjoy the new perspective as well.

“We’ve become very interested in improving the way that we communicate the story of Native American history — which by the way, the traveling public is very interested in,” Porter said.

In these efforts, Porter said it was important to collaborate closely with the tribes.

“The key thing is to make sure that they [local groups] work with their local native tribes so that they have their input,” Porter said. “That gives it the validity that’s necessary when presenting this story to the public.”

For example, projects like the Cultural History Trail and the Biddle House were done in direct collaboration with the Little Traverse Bay Bands.

The tribe’s Hemenway, who also serves on the History Commission, said he’s excited to see a focus on native representation gaining more traction at the state and national level.

“We’re in a fortunate time now where our partners are the state of Michigan, they are the National Park Service,” Hemenway said. “Everybody is working together much better from what we see than in the past of telling everybody’s stories.”

As skilled labor shortage looms, efforts aim to recruit students

By RILEY MURDOCK
Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan manufacturers continue to experience a skilled labor shortage, and specialty education programs across the state are aiming to fill the gap with young workers.

While unskilled jobs are fading, workers for pretty much any skilled job are needed across the industry, said Michigan Manufacturers Association President Chuck Hadden.

Employers are currently poaching workers from each other to fill staffing holes, he said.

“Welders — I can get almost any of those people jobs any place in the state,” Hadden said. “If you’ve got a skill of some sort, (employers) will help work with you. If you’ve got a skill, I’ll find you a place you want.”

According to Gov. Rick Snyder’s Marshall Plan for Talent released in February, Michigan will have 811,000 career openings to fill through 2024 in fields with talent shortages, 109,410 of which are estimated to be manufacturing jobs.

Snyder’s plan calls for an additional $100 million in new program funding, complementing $225 million in existing talent development funding.

The demand for workers is so great that employers are often willing to pay for workers’ educations to properly train them for open positions, Hadden said.

“If you want to work for them and have the start of the skills, workers can work during the day and take community college classes at night at company’s dimes,” Hadden said.

An example is the Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program, better known as “MAT2.”

Instituted by Snyder, the program follows a work/school model in which employers “sponsor” student workers, paying for their studies and employing them part-time for a three-year period, said Mark Lagerwey, the associate director of business development at Baker College of Cadillac.

After students graduate with an associate degree in mechatronics, IT, product design or computer numerical control, they are contractually obligated to work for the company for at least two years.

Baker College of Cadillac will graduate its first class of 14 MAT2 students on May 4, Lagerwey said.

Oakland Community College and Henry Ford College also have MAT2 programs.

“There’s a huge need for these people,” Lagerwey said. “The industries spend a lot of money training these people, but they know that they would probably be spending more money on (manufacturing) lines being down.”

The shortage is exacerbated by demographic shifts in the industry, not just in Michigan but nationwide, Lagerwey said. There aren’t enough people coming into the industry to replace the number leaving, roughly 10,000 a day, he said.

“The baby boomers are retiring, that’s a fact,” Lagerwey said. “There’s a huge need for skilled people in many, many areas, but this is certainly one critical area that’s being addressed with a pretty innovative program.”

If the MAT2 program has struggled with anything, Lagerwey said, it’s the same struggle the rest of the industry faces: Getting young people and students interested.

“There is a skills gap in many areas, from health care to manufacturing. And there’s a lot of factors that came together — low unemployment, baby boomers retiring — put all those things together it was kind of a perfect storm,” Lagerwey said. “Finding people, students, has been one of the biggest challenges. It’s hard work, but we’re making headway.”

That’s in part an issue of proper marketing to students and parents, Lagerwey said, because many parents don’t think manufacturing jobs exist anymore, and those who do think what’s left are “dirty jobs.”

While such jobs still exist, Lagerwey said the industry’s growth is focused in well-paying jobs in high-tech environments rather than the assembly line jobs long associated with the field.

“Now you need people who can manage robots as opposed to people who do what robots do,” Lagerwey said.

Hadden agrees that the perception of factories as dark, dirty and dangerous is a barrier to getting youths to pursue manufacturing trades. The Manufacturers Association  combats that misperception through initiatives such as “Manufacturing Day” on the first of October every year, which focuses on getting prospective workers into plants, factories and shops for tours.

“Michigan does more of these events than any other state in the union,” Hadden said. “I would not be afraid to open up my facility and show it to people, and show them what we’re doing and the skills that are going to be needed.”

Hadden said such events have seen an uptick in participation in the last two years as the labor market has tightened.

“If you can get the high school kids interested and they can see the kind of money they can make and the job that they’ll have, they’re going to flock to it at that point,” Hadden said.

Telehealth gaining popularity but obstacles remain

By AGNES BAO
Capital News Service

LANSING – Although more health systems in the state encourage their members to use telehealth services, some patients and physicians are hesitant, experts say.

Telehealth delivers health information and services through computers. It connects patients at one site with health providers at another site, according to the state’s health policy.

The main services include real-time consultations, electronic transmission of patient’s medical records to health care providers and remote patient monitoring, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.  

With the improvement in technologies and bandwidth capabilities, there is more recognition that telehealth services are worthwhile, said Bree Holtz, an assistant professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Michigan State University.

“The population is growing older and needs more health care while the research shows it [telehealth] provides the same level of care as in-person care,” Holtz said.

Stacey Hettiger, the director of medical and regulatory policy at the Michigan State Medical Society, said patients are encouraged to use telehealth services for minor problems, such as the early stage of a cold, flu, rashes and headaches.

“Telehealth is seen as option to more costly emergency room visits for non-emergency health conditions,” Hettiger said.

The telehealth service of Upper Peninsula Health System in Marquette had 4,293 telehealth visits in 2017, an increase from 3,547 in 2016, said Pamela Davis, the system’s analyst.

The most frequent uses were for neurology and behavioral health, Davis said.

With more knowledge of what telehealth service is, how it works and positive user experiences, an increasing number of members from rural areas are using it, she said.

The utilization rates of telehealth visits at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit health insurance company based in Detroit, have doubled since early 2017. Member registrations on the web and app have also doubled in the same time frame, said Meghan O’Brien, the company’s public relations manager.

The company’s telehealth service, Blue Cross Online Visits, “is especially helpful in areas of the U.S. where access to providers isn’t as robust as Southeast Michigan,” O’Brien said.

“The Online Visits app is rated 4.8 stars and 4.9 stars (out of 5) in the Apple App Store and Google Play, with members citing the convenience, low wait times and helpful doctors,” she said.

However, some rural areas face access problems, said Jennifer Morse, the medical director at the District Health Department #10. The district covers Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oceana and Wexford counties.

Some rural areas don’t have internet service and some people don’t have computer skills, Morse said.

There are other challenges as well. For example, U.P. Health System in Marquette is dealing with a decreasing staff size in its telehealth service.

Due to a corporate staff reduction, Davis said, “currently I’m the only one working this field. A few years ago there were four people.”

To promote its telehealth service, she said, “I would love to get out into the field to spread awareness and to go to the areas we service to see how we can do things better.”

Although telehealth services are broadly available in the state, some physicians raise additional questions.

District #10’s Morse said, “The other concerns I have, especially with urgent care needs, is over-prescribing antibiotics or misusing diagnostic tests.”

Morse also cited concerns that telehealth would negatively affect the doctor-patient relationship.

She said although technology provides doctors with advanced equipment to diagnose patients from hundreds or thousands of miles away, patients don’t always feel the same closeness or satisfaction they get from visiting a doctor in person.

As for doctors, they express concern that the use of virtual technology could affect reliability and worry that if there’s something they didn’t see, they may be sued if  something goes wrong with their patients, she added.

Another problem for physicians is “how to incorporate telehealth into their existing in-person patient workflow and how to bill for such services,” said the Medical Society’s Hettiger.

As for patients, their concern is reimbursement for services they receive, Hettiger said.

“Although there are significant concerns regarding reimbursement for telehealth services by insurers, as its application continues to grow, the states and the federal government are likely to take an active role in developing policies to address these concerns,” according to a 2017 Senate Fiscal Agency analysis.

Morse said patients need more education about telehealth services, such as “how and when it’s appropriate to utilize telehealth visits versus in-person visits.”

 

Sex ed would include all the details about consent

By COLTON WOOD

Capital News Service

LANSING — As the nation deals with widespread sexual assault reports, Rep. Tom Cochran, D-Mason, has introduced a bill that would require schools to teach affirmative consent in sexual education classes.

The bill, referred to as the “Yes Means Yes” bill, would ensure schools teach what a healthy dating relationship looks like, the setting of personal boundaries and the underlying elements of consent.

“As the father of three sons, I think it’s really important that young men know that consent is something that’s ongoing,” Cochran said. “It’s not something that is given. It’s not because you’re dating someone that implies consent.”

Cochran and Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, have tried for several years to improve sexual education and understanding of consent.

In 2015, Hertel and Cochran introduced bills pertaining to affirmative consent, but it didn’t gain any traction.

But they didn’t give up on improving how consent is taught in Michigan. Hertel introduced another consent bill last year that is still pending in the Senate Education Committee.

“Given the recent upsurge in campus sexual assault cases, it’s clear that our current statute simply doesn’t put enough emphasis on what consent means,” Hertel said. “Teaching our kids about affirmative consent is a great first step in the fight against the epidemic of sexual assault.”

Cochran’s most recent bill focuses less on saying “no” and more on recognizing consent.

“It’s important because we’ve taught that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ but we need to shift from that. Currently, this teaching doesn’t seem to be working,” he said.

“Young women — college-aged — are four times more likely than any other group to face sexual assault. We need to be talking about affirmative sexual consent and what a healthy relationship looks like,” he said.

Kathy Hagenian, the executive policy director of Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence based in Okemos, agrees that schools should go beyond just teaching “no” means “no.”

“We need to teach that healthy relationships, by definition, require respect, understanding boundaries and obtaining consent,” she said. “Educating teens about consent and open communication in regards to physical intimacy in relationships does not promote sexual activity — in fact, research and experience shows the opposite is true.”

Co-sponsors include Rep. Scott Diandra, D-Calumet.

The bill would amend the sexual education curriculum by mandating that school districts focus less on the saying “no” approach and more on recognizing what consent is. It would also promote student understanding of how to set limits and how to recognize a dangerous situation while providing instruction on respectful dating relationships and setting personal boundaries.

Cochran said, “We need to be talking about consent. It needs to be comprehensive. It needs to be a subject that can be linked to the conversation. We are making some headway, but the reality is people are having sexual relationships and they need to be taught.”

He said, “And they need to be taught in their K-12 education before they get on these college campuses.”

Cochran said the bill doesn’t specify what grades should teach consent and sexual education. That would be up to individual school districts.

“Certainly, 5th grade, that’s much too young to learn about sexual education,” Cochran said. “But young people are having relationships in middle school and, certainly, in high school. It helps them to understand what the idea is behind domestic and dating violence.”

With recent well-publicized sexual assault cases in Michigan — most prominently at Michigan State University — David Crim, communications consultant for the Michigan Education Association, said the union is deeply concerned for the safety of the students, both in K-12 and at colleges and universities.

The MEA will continue to advocate and support measures to help ensure their safety, Crim said.

“Given the terrible crimes committed by (former sports Dr.) Larry Nassar at MSU, as well as other sexual assaults in schools,” Crim said, “we need to take these situations seriously.”  

Cochran’s bill is awaiting action in the House Education Reform Committee.