Homelessness, justice reform and Medicaid were all addressed this year in a comprehensive fashion with HB 436, HB 348, HB 437 and HB 328. This new structure will allow the state to more effectively assist those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, while also reforming our justice system.
This year’s Medicaid expansion (HB 437) will provide a program of coverage through an expansion of traditional Medicaid that will preserve services and benefits to the core group of over 300,000 current Medicaid recipients, including children and disabled adults.
Newly-covered populations will include the chronically homeless, individuals involved in the justice system and those in need of substance abuse and mental health treatment. A new data system will also be implemented to allow the state to align programs and track and share information to more efficiently use resources.
The 2016 budget also fully funds consensus Medicaid growth estimates for the traditional Medicaid population of over $40 million.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants legal representation and Utah is one of only two states that leaves funding up to the counties. Some claim that this has led to ineffective legal representation.
A state task force has been studying the issue for four years and their recommendations are the basis for SB 155. It creates the Utah Indigent Defense Commission and gives the Commission authority to collect data to study the provision of indigent criminal defense services statewide. It also authorizes them to assist local jurisdictions to meet minimum standards of effective representation and establishes an account to provide financial assistance to indigent defense systems throughout the state that are underfunded and unable to adequately protect the rights of those accused of committing a crime.