Public Comment / HB 248: Mental Health Services for Adults

Updated: 1 year ago
Public Policy

February 3, 2023
Nate Crippes / Public Affairs Supervising Attorney
Andrew Riggle / Public Policy Advocate
(801) 363-1347 / (800) 662-9080

Over the past few months, the DLC has monitored where those with serious mental illness reside and receive services. What we’ve found is an inadequate system. While we appreciate Rep. Eliason’s advocacy of, and the legislature’s support for, crisis response, mobile crisis outreach teams and receiving centers, these are only one important piece of the puzzle. We believe Rep. Judkins’ Mental Health Services for Adults is another crucial piece in the complete continuum of supports we’re working to build.

Rep. Judkins’ HB 248 seeks $5 million to expand Assertive Community Treatment teams. We believe they are part of the answer to what comes after a person is stabilized and no longer in crisis. There are evidence-based variations of ACT serving homeless persons, individuals involved in the criminal justice system, and those diagnosed with a mental illness and a substance use disorder. Through our monitoring, the DLC’s seen some of the impressive work done by ACT Teams.

ACT teams offer intensive wraparound services. They’re often called “hospitals without walls.” In addition to clinical staff, teams include experts in social work, housing, employment, and education. ACT’s outcomes and effectiveness are measured using a validated fidelity scale. Most clients are or can be enrolled in Medicaid, meaning Utah only pays about a third of ongoing costs. Salt Lake County, Optum realized a 2/3 reduction in costs associated with participants before and after implementing its team with Volunteers of America.

Utah can no longer afford to invest almost exclusively in beds or brick and mortar facilities, nor can we solely focus on crisis response. The state must fulfill its obligation under the nondiscrimination and integration provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act by prioritizing supports designed to ensure individuals with mental health needs have the chance to live, work, and play in their community, while preventing or delaying the need for higher levels of care, institutionalization, or incarceration.

We thank Rep. Judkins for taking the long view and urge your support.