Senate reforms state laws to better support children with special health care needs

LANSING, Mich. – The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation to remove the phrase “crippled children” from state laws and replace it with “children and youth with special health care needs.”

“The word crippled is outdated, has negative connotations and distracts from the intent of laws meant to help children with special health care needs,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, sponsor of Senate Bill 114. “Updating Michigan’s health laws with this language better reflects the children we are serving as well as the mission of the health care professionals who treat them.”

SB 114 amends a portion of Public Act 137 of 1921, which states, if a county board of commissioners enters into agreements with health care providers to treat a “crippled child or children” living within the county, a family court judge must refer the child to a contracted health care provider. SB 114 replaces “crippled child or children” with “child or youth with special health care needs.”

The bill is part of a six-bill bipartisan package. SB 113, sponsored by Senator Jim Marleau, similarly amends a different portion of the same law O’Brien’s bill amends, while SB 112, sponsored by Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr., amends Public Act 29 of 1957 to remove the phrase from certain files and records in the probate court.

SB 112 is tie-barred to House Bill 4205, sponsored by Representative Andy Schor, which amends the Michigan Public Health Code to refer to “children and youth with special health care needs” rather than “crippled children.” HB 4203, sponsored by Representative Mike Callton, removes references to the phrase from Public Act 327 of 1931. HB 4204, sponsored by Representative Joe Graves, removes the phrase from Public Act 280 of 1939.

The move is not without precedent and is part of a larger trend. Last year, the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, bills removing the words “mentally retarded” from state law, replacing those with “developmentally disabled” to better align with the law’s intent and social sensibilities.

Senate Bills 112-114 now go to the state House for consideration. HBs 4203-05 were previously referred to the House Committee on Health Policy.

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Editor’s note: Click here for audio from Senator O’Brien on Senate Bill 114.