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Utah House passes bill to fund 30 Utah State Hospital beds

Nearly $4 million bill might run into trouble in budgeting

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The Utah State Hospital in Provo is seen from the air on Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s political support for 30 more mental treatment beds at the Utah State Hospital — but will there be enough money?

The Utah House of Representatives voted 73-0 on Monday to advance HB35, which seeks around $3.8 million to open about 30 mothballed beds at the Utah State Hospital. It also requires the Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council to study and provide recommendations to the Legislature regarding the long-term need for adult beds at the facility.

The aim, said sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, is to free up beds currently occupied in the state’s prison and jail systems and get help for some of Utah’s most vulnerable.

“We are paying for these individuals one way or another,” Eliason told the House on Monday, adding that many of Utah’s severely mentally ill have been trapped in the “revolving door” of the prison system and using resources in the courts and emergency rooms when they need professional mental health treatment they couldn’t get anywhere else except the Utah State Hospital.

The bill would also fund “assertive community treatment teams” — a “hospital without walls,” as Eliason put it — to create mobile outreach teams to treat people in crisis on the streets or in their homes before they end up in the criminal justice system or an emergency room.

Eliason’s bill found support among Utah’s House, but is on shaky ground when it comes to its fiscal note.

With the collapse of last year’s tax reform package, legislative leaders have said until hard revenue numbers are released, likely next week, it’s unclear what money will be available to spend out of the state’s general fund.

House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said Eliason’s bill is “good policy” but “we’ll have to wait and see if the money is there.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.