Social Services – 2018 Legislative Session

Social Services programs received nearly $80 million in new ongoing state General Funds during the 2018 legislative session. These appropriations will address cost inflation and enrollment growth in current programs, but will also support new programs and the expansion of services associated with various pieces of legislation.

The majority of new state funds allocated to social service agencies went to the traditional state Medicaid program. These dollars covered cost pressures associated with programmatic changes, inflation and enrollment growth for individuals covered by Medicaid, in-home waiver services and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Beyond the status quo, the 2018 General Session addressed the long-standing and much-debated issue of Medicaid expansion by expanding coverage to an estimated 86,000 individuals who are not currently eligible for traditional Medicaid services. While more people will be covered, the changes follow and promote Utah values of self-sufficiency through a work activity requirement for able-bodied adults, fiscal prudence through the ability to cap program enrollment if costs exceed appropriations and respecting the state taxpayer through leveraging federal matching funds at a 90/10 rate.

Separate bills expanded family planning Medicaid services to qualifying adults in poverty, made permanent services for children with complex disabilities and extended Medicaid dental services to previously ineligible individuals.

Suicide prevention was another major area of emphasis this session. Following recommendations of the Governor’s Suicide Prevention Taskforce, nearly $3.4 million was allocated for five new mobile crisis outreach teams, including provisions to ensure at least three teams are deployed in rural Utah. Additionally, the state mental health crisis line will now be staffed 24/7 by mental health therapists and crisis workers, which means calls will be immediately answered or routed without a caller being put on hold.

Another noteworthy item is the state’s efforts to address homelessness. The state fulfilled its funding commitment to Operation Rio Grande by appropriating $10.5 million to support outreach services, supportive housing and law enforcement presence. Furthermore, $6.6 million in additional funds were approved to operate shelters and bolster homeless reduction programs.