Public Comment / HB 177: USH Amendments

Updated: 10 months ago
Public Policy

January 24, 2023
Nate Crippes / Public Affairs Supervising Attorney
ncrippes@disabilitylawcenter.org
Andrew Riggle / Public Policy Advocate
ariggle@disabilitylawcenter.org
(801) 363-1347 / (800) 662-9080
disabilitylawcenter.org

The DLC understands this is simply a study. However, when we participated in a similar conversation around moving the Utah State Prison, we raised concern about the impact it’s new location would have on ease of access and the ability to recruit and retain highly qualified mental health staff. At the same time, we recognized the buildings were aging and the opportunity to rethink what and how care is delivered in a modern facility.

DLC staff regularly visit USH patients. From our observation, there is little, if any, need to rebuild the hospital’s infrastructure. The campus is beautiful and most of the buildings are relatively new. We also don’t want a repeat of the current staffing challenges at the USP.

Allocating resources in this manner might mean even fewer for community mental health. This is unfortunate, as the DLC’s spent the last several years advocating its enhancement and expansion for Utahns with serious mental illness, in hopes of preventing or delaying the need for hospitalization or incarceration. Not making a sufficient investment along these lines could also be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s nondiscrimination provision.

We’ve heard rumors of two proposed locations. One is the Utah State Developmental Center in American Fork. The other is breaking the USH into a couple smaller units in different areas of the state.

The USDC idea gives us pause because the legislature’s already designated uses for the land and how any proceeds from it should be used. Additionally, the approach would essentially mean isolating and segregating Utahns with the most significant disabilities, which might be a violation of the ADA’s integration provision.

Finally, if recruiting knowledgeable and experienced corrections staff to the northwest quadrant has been challenging, imagine the difficulty convincing highly-trained and qualified psychiatrists and other professionals to relocate to less populated areas of the state, especially in today’s economy