Public Comment / EAC Budget Priorities

Updated: 1 year ago
Public Policy

February 14, 2023
Nate Crippes / Public Affairs Supervising Attorney
Andrew Riggle / Public Policy Advocate
(801) 363-1347 / (800) 662-9080

Dear Executive Appropriations Committee Members,

Thank you for recognizing the importance of community-based services. We appreciate the work you and your colleagues are doing to build on what you accomplished last year around the DSPD waiting list and direct support staff wages.

We’re especially grateful for Sen. Harper’s recognition of the invaluable contribution families make to the functioning of the system. Please support SSA’s recommendation of using $1,870,500 to continue caregiver compensation on an ongoing basis.

Likewise, we support Rep. Ward’s request, at #6 on SSA’s ongoing list, for $9,791,200 to make sure at least 200 high-need individuals a year get the DSPD services they need to avoid institutionalization. We also support $544,800, at #17 on the ongoing list, for a Community Transitions waiver nursing rate increase, to support those who choose to move from ICFs/ID into the community.

Now it’s time to devote similar attention to community mental health. We appreciate Rep. Eliason’s commitment to crisis response and school-based mental health in the last few years. However, they are only two parts of a fully functioning continuum. Our question will always be: Once a person has stabilized, what’s in place to prevent or delay the next crisis?

Rep. Judkins’ one-time request, at #27 on the list, for $5,202,000 for more assertive community treatment teams. ACT is basically a “hospital without walls.” A team has clinical, peer, housing, employment, and other specialists. There are even models designed to work with those who are homeless or involved in the criminal justice system. Once a team is operating at capacity, Medicaid enables it to be almost self-sustaining. Rep. Hollins was a member of an ACT team and spoke highly of them on the floor. Far too many Utahns with disabilities have less than 30% of the area median income. Much of what has been built recently appears to be “luxury” apartments or physically inaccessible townhomes. You put the first part of the answer in place last year with $55 million for deeply affordable housing. This year is another opportunity to further this investment.

Unfortunately, the $5 and $10 million in gap financing for affordable housing is currently at #26 and #31 respectively on SSA’s ongoing and one-time lists. Sadly, $20 million in state funds for 400 deeply affordable units is at #29 on the one-time list, as is $5 million for deeply affordable housing grants at #32. Last, but, we hope, not least is $5 million, at #28 on the ongoing list, to subsidize the rent for 500 deeply affordable units.

Combining substantial commitments to both full-fidelity ACT and deeply affordable housing could be a more efficient and effective way to provide integrated, scattered-site permanent supportive housing for individuals with serious mental illness, which is a much better model than Rep. Abbott’s proposed supported housing pilot in Davis County.

Finally, while our focus is clearly on the community, we haven’t forgotten about the quality of life for those who remain in facilities. It’s why we support the $5 million wage increase for nursing home staff and the $2,283,000 ICF/sID daily rate increase, at #s 13 and 20 respectively, on the ongoing list.

As always, thank you for your time and considering our recommendations. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions or would like more information.