Street Talk: The impact of doing good


Local First has released its mid-year report highlighting how local companies use their business as a force for good.

The Good for Grand Rapids Report highlights data on businesses that have taken the Quick Impact Assessment during the first six months of the Good for Grand Rapids initiative.

“Our data show businesses of all shapes, sizes and industries are making a significant positive impact in our community,” said Elissa Hillary, president of Local First. “We’re thrilled to see so many Grand Rapids businesses taking the Quick Impact Assessment and making it a priority to use their business as a force for good.”

Good for Grand Rapids launched in January. Since then, 47 businesses in multiple sectors, including service, lifestyle, manufacturing and retail, have taken the Quick Impact Assessment. Fifteen of those businesses took the assessment before Good for Grand Rapids launched and again during the campaign, and demonstrated significant growth in the following areas:

  • 45 percent showed an increase in positive impact on workers
  • 55 percent showed an increase in impact in governance
  • 55 percent showed an increase in positive community impact
  • 67 percent showed an increase in positive environmental impact

“The assessment ended up being an eye-opening experience that helped me evaluate and improve my business practices,” said Dick Zaagman, owner and founder of Community Automotive. “I’ve always been committed to social, environmental and community issues, so the assessment helped me identify ways my business is already making an impact and how we can grow our impact.”

The Quick Impact Assessment, developed by Local First, B Lab and Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), is a free, confidential online tool that helps companies measure their positive social and environmental impact in their community.

The assessment, which can be taken in about 60 minutes, looks at how companies stack up to best practices including employee wages, community involvement, philanthropy and environmental impact — and how they compare to similar companies around the world.

Businesses can take the Quick Impact Assessment at or contact Local First for more information.

Opioid dilemma

A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association report revealed diagnoses of opioid addiction increased by 493 percent from 2010 to 2015, while medication-assisted treatments increased by just 65 percent from 2010 to 2016.

The report, titled “America's opioid epidemic and its effect on the nation's commercially-insured population,” highlighted the large discrepancy between the increase in diagnoses and the increase in treatments, as well as noting that 21 percent of BCBS members have filled an opioid prescription in 2015. In Michigan, 18.6 percent of BCBS members filled an opioid prescription and an average of about 7.9 out of 1,000 Blue Cross Michigan enrollees were diagnosed with opioid addiction.

“We see this as being high priority and problematic,” said Jody Gembarski, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan manager of pharmacy administration. “We’re seeing high levels of opioid prescribing, overdose visits to the emergency room — this is taking a toll on everyone both in the financial impact and health of our members.”

The rise in opioid abuse has not been met with passivity from local health care organizations. This past spring, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a standing order to give Michigan pharmacists pre-authorization to make naloxone readily available to those who need it.

All 61 of SpartanNash’s Michigan pharmacies now carry emergency overdose kits, which provide patients access to naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of opiates and can reverse a potentially fatal overdose. Metro Health: University of Michigan Health also is discharging patients admitted for an opiate overdose with the life-saving drug, and Keystone Pharmacy also recently announced it would include a dose of naloxone with any opioid prescription filled.

Keystone pharmacy owner and chief formulation scientist David J. Miller said he believes that providing naloxone soon will be the standard of care in the state, and that while it can save lives, proper education on how to use opioids will be equally important in staving off the crisis.

Miller said he would hate to see patients have to struggle with pain because physicians might be gun shy about prescribing painkillers and hopes that a middle ground can be reached in finding a solution to the epidemic.

“The biggest dilemma we have is whether to treat pain or not,” Miller said. “And 20 years ago, we never treated it; it was terrible how much was being brushed aside. And now, the pendulum is swinging back toward fear of addiction (to painkillers), and I would hate to see people in pain because of that if there was a moratorium on prescribing opioids.

“I would like to see somewhat of a more reasonable middle ground going forward.”

Healthy outlay

Muskegon Community College will receive a capital outlay appropriation of $5.6 million from the state of Michigan in support of a $14.1-million project to construct a new Health and Wellness Center on the college’s main campus at 221 Quarterline Road in Muskegon. The appropriation is part of the 2017-18 state budget signed by Gov. Snyder last week.

The legislative appropriation and construction authorization follows the submission of the original proposal in 2015 and receipt of planning authorization approval in 2016. MCC will contribute 60 percent of the project cost, with the state of Michigan providing the remaining 40 percent.

The 52,400-square-foot Health and Wellness Center will include collaborative learning spaces, classrooms, activity spaces and a Health Simulation Lab to support the college’s nursing, respiratory therapy and medical assistant programs.

“We are grateful to receive this appropriation, which will allow us to better serve our students and support the health care community in Muskegon,” MCC President Dale Nesbary said. “I want to especially thank our Muskegon-area state legislators for their support of this project: Sen. Goeff Hansen, Rep. Holly Hughes and Rep. Terry Sabo — along with former state representative Jon Bumstead, who crafted the original legislation supporting the bill.”

Construction on the new MCC Health and Wellness Center will begin in October and is expected to be completed by December 2018.

Throw the book at ’em

Ever wonder how your fine for a speeding ticket is used?

A portion of the fines collected through the courts from criminal violations and civil infractions supports local libraries. And it’s not just a little bit, either.

Ottawa County Treasurer Bradley Slagh said funds heading to the nine local libraries this year total $826,633.

The Michigan State Constitution of 1963 requires that all penalties collected for violations of the state penal laws be divided into court costs, statutory fees and penal fees. The penal fines are placed in a library fund to be used for the support of public libraries and a county law library.

“In Georgetown Township, penal fines are an important source of funding for the library, and as a revenue source, rank second only to the township’s appropriation to the department,” said Pamela Myers, director of the Georgetown Township Public Library. “The library utilizes revenue from penal fines to support programs, services and collections (e.g., books, DVDs, music CDs, e-books, audiobooks, etc.).”

In recent years, the total has ranged from $700,000 to over $900,000 depending on the citations written using the state penal code and the fines levied by the court, Slagh said, adding this year’s amounts were similar to 2016.

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