While advocates wonder if the Utah legislature will leave Medicaid Expansion in the hands of the governor, Utah's recovery community plans to put some faces to the issue of funding for folks with mental-health and substance-abuse concerns.
Between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Utah Capitol rotunda, advocates expect hundreds to gather for the fifth Rally for Recovery. The aim is to raise awareness of mental-health needs and recovery from substance abuse.
"Mental health early intervention and drug courts are two examples of programs that, if appropriated funds, will allow children and adults in need of support to succeed," according to a press release from the co-organizers, the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Utah and Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness.
The release notes that for "many uninsured, hard-working Utahns, services are out of reach." That's a situation that would change if Utah were to adopt federally funded Medicaid Expansion next year. In January, City Weekly ran a cover story about the struggle to expand Medicaid from the perspective of both those who can influence the decision and those who desperately need insurance. You can read "Who Deserves Health Care" here.
But, according to Patrick Fleming, Salt Lake County's head of behavioral-health services, the battle to get legislative support hasn't been easy. He reports, in response to emailed questions, that "pressure from a number of fronts" has made it hard to get traction for those who want to see expansion. Legislators, he fears, "have just dug in their heels and will probably punt to the governor."
The much-anticipated report by a Boston consulting firm on the financial pros and cons of taking on Medicaid expansion was supposed to be available by the end of January, but the consultants got an extra two weeks to finish. Fleming anticipates that the report will be presented to Gov. Gary Herbert over the weekend and be available to the public on Monday.
Gov. Herbert will appoint a committee to study expansion based on the information from the forthcoming report. If the study can be done quickly, Fleming has his fingers crossed for Utah applying for expansion at some point this year.
"Most states that have done this type of cost-benefit study are finding that it is in the best interest of the state to expand," he says.