Public Comment / SSA: MH

Updated: 1 year ago
Public Policy

January 25, 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’s monitored where those with serious mental illness reside and receive services. What we’ve found is an inadequate system. While there’ve been recent investments in our mental health system, they’ve largely been for crisis response, which is only part of the need. With this in mind, our comments focus on the funding needs of a robust community mental health system.

Simply, Utah must fulfill its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act by prioritizing supports designed to ensure individuals with mental health needs can live, work, and play in their, community, while preventing or delaying the need for higher levels of care, institutionalization, or incarceration. We hope several of the initiatives proposed this year will help do just that.

The DLC’s excited to support the governor’s recommendation of $100 million in deeply affordable housing. For housing to be successful, supports must be available. For supports to be effective, housing must be stable. It also needs to be scattered site throughout the community.

We’re hopeful a proposed study from Rep. Judkins, in conjunction with the Utah Hospital Association’s master plan, can help identify the needs and gaps for those with serious mental illness, and give you a roadmap for getting our community mental health system from where it is now to where we want it to be in five or 10 years.

As a step on this path, Rep. Judkins HB 248 seeks $5 million as seed money for expanding Assertive Community Treatment teams, which offer the intensive wraparound services needed to keep many individuals with SMI in their homes and communities, not a hospital or jail.

The DLC appreciates the efforts Rep. Eliason and the legislature are making on behalf of Utahns with mental health and substance use needs, through an $11,700,000 expansion of mobile crisis outreach teams and receiving centers. Even so, we understand the involvement of law enforcement or hospitalization may not be avoided entirely. It’s why we support the best practice crisis intervention teams in Rep. Stoddard’s HB 129 and the governor’s recommendation $1.1 million to replace federal funds at the Utah State Hospital and another $875,000 to increase the rate for the forensic staff there.