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A bill in the state Senate aims to expand access to nutrition therapy

A white door hangs ajar, a pale wooden sign hangs on it reading "Untamed Nutrition Therapy. In Session, Please Do Not Disturb". The room is partially revealed, a white wooden chair sits on the brown carpet, the chair faces to the right of the image, with a desk to its left. Various different items from papers to mugs sit on the table, light shines through the window just in front of it, light blue curtains hang down and catch wisps of sunlight.
Michael Symonds
/
WMUK
The bill would require a dietitian to be licensed to perform Medical Nutrition Therapy, which is used to treat many illnesses ranging from diabetes to eating disorders.

Michigan does not license dietitians. That can make it hard for patients with conditions like diabetes or eating disorders to get nutrition care.

Laurie Pohutsky is a Democratic state representative from Livonia. She said dietitians provide a sometimes life-saving service to Michiganders.

“But it's inaccessible and unaffordable to a lot of people because it isn't covered by insurance,” Pohutsky said.

Pohutsky introduced a bill that aims to fix that by licensing dieticians in Michigan. The proposed legislation passed the state House in the fall. Now it’s in a state Senate committee.

“It will hopefully improve household health outcomes for people all across the state."

Some nutrition professionals object

Miranda Moore-Stepnitz of Macomb County opposed Pohutsky's bill at a recent hearing. That’s because it would license dieticians, but not Certified Nutrition Specialists like her.

“I am by all accounts a nutritionist, I just chose the path less traveled of my nutrition education as a Certified Nutrition Specialist and not a registered dietician,” Stepnitz told the committee.

But Mark Thiesmeyer Hook with the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said during the hearing that CNSes do not have the same level of training as dieticians.

“We know that various doctors are extremely qualified, but you don't let a dermatologist operate on your heart,” Hook said.

Expanding access

Allison Bone stands in front of the door to her office, she's wearing a dark green shirt and a thin white knitted coat. A sign hangs to her right, it says "In Session".
Michael Symonds
/
WMUK
Allison Bone is the executive director for Untamed Nutrition, where she specializes in treating eating disorders. Bone said eating disorders are among the most lethal mental illnesses in the country, with nutrition therapy playing an important role in treating it.

Dietitian Allison Bone treats eating disorders at her practice in Richland. Bone said the bill is vital.

“28 million people in the United States will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their life," Bone said. "We're looking at a very large amount of the population who is at risk of having very detrimental health effects from this mental illness.”

Pohutsky said she’s hopeful the bill will get a vote at its next hearing.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

Report for America national service program corps member Michael Symonds joined WMUK’s staff in 2023. He covers the “rural meets metro” beat, reporting stories that link seemingly disparate parts of Southwest Michigan.