U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) on Thursday held a mental-health-focused health care roundtable at Lansing’s Eastern High School, just a week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed her legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
The visit marks the freshman congresswoman’s latest stop in her “Costs of Care” event series. Slotkin said the series is for her “to make sure I understand, from beginning to end” what is driving up costs of health care, where people are getting their health care and where they want to get their health care and pharmaceuticals.
Slotkin first toured Eastern Community Health Center, the open-to-all medical facility housed inside of the high school. After, she met with constituents for a more in-depth conversation. Representatives of Lansing School District, the Michigan Association of School Nurses, EHS students and additional policymakers attended the discussion.
Slotkin said people often stop her while she’s grocery shopping to discuss health care matters. The two things she hears about the most? Prescription drugs and mental health.
“They will stop me and grab me and talk about the price of prescription drugs, particularly insulin and inhalers,” Slotkin told attendees. “As a subcategory of that, mental health and behavioral health have to be right up there.”
Slotkin asked participants to speak to changes they’ve seen on that front. One participant said the current generation of high school students appear to be more open to seeking help if they experience mental health problems. Panelists talked about more trauma-informed physicians exist now, which helps lead to a more open discussion.
Slotkin said she’s noticed the current generation of students using “good peer pressure” to convince their friends to seek treatment. Slotkin said when she was younger, there wasn’t as much open dialogue about students’ health.
Back-and-forth conversations like this one are crucial to policymakers’ understanding of community health care issues, said Robin Turner, an outreach consultant for School-Community Health Alliance of Michigan.
“I think from the questions she’s asking, it’s apparent that she’s understanding,” Turner said. “I think as she talked, the more she caught on, it was becoming a larger conversation about systems of care, what are we doing about mental health.”
Slotkin’s tenure as Michigan’s 8th District U.S. representative has been marked by a focus on health care issues. In May, she noted her mother’s cancer diagnosis in a floor speech for a bill aimed at protecting people with pre-existing conditions.
Recent legislation attached to her name — the Real-Time Benefits Act, which allows patients to access updates on prescription drug prices before purchase — passed last week in the Democratic-led U.S. House. Like many bills, however, it faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate.
Slotkin made note of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump that she supports — which was first initiated by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in late September — and said it actually created an opportunity to pass more bills that are bipartisan.
“We have this impeachment inquiry, but in a weird way it’s opened up space on the legislative calendar for easier bipartisan things to come on through,” Slotkin said. “That’s how I got my prescription drug bill done.”