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Bills on homelessness, mental health services pass Legislature in final days

By Carlene Coombs - | Mar 1, 2024

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

The Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.

Two bills from Provo Rep. Tyler Clancy, one addressing homelessness and the other tackling mental health services, have passed through the state Legislature.

The bills received final approval Wednesday, with the final day of the legislative session being on Friday

Clancy’s bill regarding mental health services went through multiple revisions as it made its way through both the Senate and the House.

The original version of the bill would have sold the Utah State Hospital property in Provo, but the lawmaker later removed that provision of the bill due to feedback he received from state agencies, he previously told the Daily Herald.

The legislation extends the maximum time an individual can be involuntarily held due to a mental health disorder and creates statewide standards for when a patient is discharged.

Another change that occurred to the bill was removing some language that would have expanded the situations in which a person could be involuntarily committed.

Previously, the legislation added that if, due to a severe mental health disorder, a person was unable to take care of their basic needs or unable to keep themselves from serious criminal action, they could be committed for court-ordered treatment.

During a Senate committee meeting, Clancy explained that they removed that part of the bill because the state Department of Health and Human Services said that would add an estimated 4,700 people into the system, which the state doesn’t have the capacity for.

“We pared it (the bill) back significantly for financial concerns,” he told the committee on Monday.

The bill still will create specific requirements for when a patient is discharged, such as providing them with contact information for a crisis hotline and peer support services, a safety plan based on the individual’s needs and referral to social services if needed.

“Really, what we’re doing is just codifying best practices,” Clancy previously told the Daily Herald. “We want to make sure that everyone is making sure that we’re not doing that discharging into homelessness, which is not the providers’ fault. It’s rather just, we want to make sure that everyone’s communicating, everyone’s on the same page.”

The legislation also directs a study to be conducted on the capacity of current mental health resources and finding where additional resources are needed.

Clancy’s bill on homelessness services would revamp the Utah Homelessness Council, require more detailed data gathering on homelessness and remove some limitations on unsanctioned camping enforcement during a code blue alert.

It would replace Utah’s current 29-member homelessness council and create a Utah Homeless Services Board consisting of nine voting members.

Some of the board’s responsibilities would be to update the state’s plan for reducing homelessness, recommend best practices for administering homeless services and addressing substance abuse, develop metrics measuring the effectiveness of services and develop goals to reduce homelessness.

The bill also would require more detailed data gathering on homelessness and the progress toward eliminating homelessness as well as a detailed yearly progress report.

“The fact of the matter is a mother fleeing domestic violence with her two children, that’s going to be a dramatically different policy intervention than someone who’s been living unsheltered, maybe using heroin or meth for the past five years,” Clancy previously told the Daily Herald. “They both need our help, but it’s going to look different and that’s what we want to measure.”

The legislation also allows municipalities to enforce camping ordinances during a code blue alert — when temperatures drop below 15 degrees — even if no shelter beds are available. Under legislation passed last year, municipalities were prohibited from enforcing no-camping ordinances if no shelter beds were available.

Both pieces of legislation still need to be signed by the governor before becoming law.


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