Jones, Schuitmaker to host press conference on success of Michigan’s DWI/sobriety courts

Who:
State Sen. Rick Jones, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, committee vice chair; Eaton County District Court Judge Harvey Hoffman; Cass County Probate Court Judge Susan Dobrich, president of the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals (MADCP); Michigan House members; and legal experts.

What:
Press conference to discuss the success of the state’s DWI/sobriety courts and research findings by the MADCP concerning Michigan’s DWI/Sobriety Courts Ignition Interlock Program.

When: 
Wednesday, April 30 at noon.

Where:
State Capitol
Room 402/403
Lansing, MI

Why:
In 2009, the Eaton County District Court, under Judge Hoffman, administered a DWI/sobriety court ignition interlock pilot project for high Blood Alcohol Content, first-time DWI offenders for one year. The intent was to allow offenders to plea to a lesser impaired driving charge in exchange for entering a treatment program – reducing jail time and helping offenders to return to work and normal life.

As a result of the project’s success, the Michigan Legislature passed reforms expanding the program to all 30 DWI/sobriety courts in the state.

The legislation mandated that the MADCP conduct annual reports.

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Legislation protecting patients and increasing transparency at oversight boards signed into law

For Immediate Release
April 4, 2014

Contacts:
Sen. Rick Jones: 517-410-9495               
Derek Sova: 517-373-0793 (Schuitmaker)                                              
                                                                                   

LANSING— Legislation that will better protect patients by increasing oversight and transparency at the state’s boards of health professions has been signed into law by Lt. Gov Brian Calley.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Rick Jones introduced the legislation last year in response to evidence that a former Board of Medicine chairman dismissed serious allegations against a Muskegon abortion provider, Dr. Robert Alexander, without investigation and without disclosing their prior relationship.

“The great majority of our health care providers are caring and committed professionals, but unfortunately there are some bad actors that abuse their patients’ trust,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “We will now have the tools in place to effectively hold those people accountable and make sure that they do not pose any more danger to the public.”

Public Act 95 of 2014 requires a minimum of three board members to review every allegation brought to the boards. Prior to this act, a board chairperson had the power to make decisions without consulting other members. It further prohibits the practice of board members testifying as paid expert witnesses in malpractice suits over allegations that may later come before the board to investigate.

PA 96 of 2014 requires board members to disclose any conflict of interest that might exist between them and the health care providers they are investigating.

PA 97 of 2014 automatically revokes a health professional’s license if they are found guilty of criminal sexual conduct against a patient while acting in their capacity as a health professional.

PA 98 of 2014 makes revisions to the law governing decisions of disciplinary subcommittees.

Jones commented on an experience from his time as a sheriff.

“Years ago the victim of a rape in Macomb County came to me and asked for help. She had been drugged and raped by her dentist. She said that she knew I was a former sheriff and would fight for justice,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Her rapist had spent only one year in jail and was given his license back. The lieutenant governor signed a package of bills that will guarantee a licensed medical provider will lose their license forever if convicted of raping a patient. We also ensure that when a complaint is made on a medical professional that one person who is a friend cannot tear it up and hide it. With these laws on the books, Michigan will become a safer place to be a patient.”

Schuitmaker added that “Patients rely on the state’s oversight boards to ensure that their health care providers are practicing safely and responsibly. This legislation will restore the public’s confidence in those boards."

In 2009, allegations were brought against Dr. Robert Alexander by another doctor who treated one of Alexander’s patients. Dr. George Shade, then chairman of the board, singlehandedly dismissed the allegations without investigating. In 2012, Alexander’s clinic in Muskegon was shut down for multiple health and safety violations. 

Further information showed that Alexander lost his license and served time in prison in the 1980s and 1990s. When Alexander applied to have his license reinstated, Shade served as Alexander’s mentor.