Category: Blog Post

The Other Side Academy

It’s nice to know that amidst all the depressing news on the opioid crisis, homelessness and poverty, there are beacons of hope springing up across this country. One of those beacons can be found in downtown Salt Lake City, and it’s called The Other Side Academy.

The Other Side Academy is modeled after Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, and opened its doors in Salt Lake City in 2015. These organizations provide the tools and structure for those who’ve lived lives marred by abuse, drugs and dysfunction. According to The Other Side Academy, these individuals “don’t need rehabilitation, they need habilitation.” They likely haven’t been exposed to orderly, well-functioning ways of life. “When they want to change they don’t need more motivation in the form of threats, fines and penalties, they need more ability – mentoring, training and full-contact coaching.”

In 2015, the Utah Legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, HB 348. This reform made changes to the way we treat criminals by assessing those charged with crimes and providing them with treatment where applicable, to allow for a more successful eventual transition back into the community. The last thing we want is for our prisons to simply provide a revolving door for those who could live successfully out in the community if they only had appropriate treatment and/or skills to be able to do so.

Treatment is one component of this reform, but providing opportunities for certain highly-motivated individuals to turn their lives around seems to fit perfectly into this idea that prison alone is not the only answer to every societal problem.

The Academy helps residents learn to work together, to be responsible and to follow through on commitments. It is self-sustaining through businesses run by participants, and they quickly learn that to eat requires work. There are no free rides. To be accepted into the program, all that is asked is for a participant to exhibit a sincere desire to change and a willingness to do the hard things that will allow that change to occur.

The Academy assisted with Phase Three of Operation Rio Grande, which focuses on the dignity of work. The plan establishes work activities, workshops, devotionals and other employment preparation activities to the daily routine of individuals residing in the Rio Grande area.

Read the story that started it all here.

 

 

 

 

 

Representatives visit University of Utah Health

Representatives have the opportunity to hear and see presentations about the remarkable effort that is being completed by many notable organizations, non-profits and companies during committee meetings. Though, to gain an even better understanding, Representatives at the Utah House want to not only just hear about it but also observe it. One of the best ways to learn more about the excellent services Utahns are performing is to personally experience an organizations environment and operation that takes place on a day to day basis.

Speaker Greg Hughes, Rep. Steve Eliason and DEA supervisory special agent Brian Besser visited the University of Utah Health (UofU Health) facilities on Thursday, Nov. 2. The purpose of the visit was to get a firsthand look at the exceptional work accomplished by the dedicated staff who are striving to provide excellent care to individuals often during one of the most challenging moments of their lives.

We appreciate the dedicated doctors, nurses, scientists and staff who thanklessly aim to provide the best care and service to Utahns and those in and around the country.

During the visit, they visited the Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the AirMed team, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and Entertainment Arts and Engineering department.

The dean of the College of Pharmacy discussed the cutting-edge opioid addiction research with a zebrafish that is being conducted to understand the drug-seeking behavior better. The purpose is to  come up with solutions to help fight this epidemic. Learn more about the study here.

 

The NICU combines highly trained healthcare professionals and advanced technology to provide care for the tiniest patients in need of intensive medical attention. The medical team works tirelessly and is a vital component for the health and developmental well-being of premature or sick infants. Babies delivered at 24 weeks have a 90 percent survival rate at the UofU Health NICU.

Treating burn injuries can be a challenging and lengthy process. The Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit, which includes physicians, nurses, counselors and other caregivers, aims to provide access to the latest treatments as well as emotional and spiritual support to help patients and their families during the recovery process.

The Burn Center team cares for over 400 people a year and has about a 92.5 percent survival rate. Additionally, the Burn Center has gone more than four years without a central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). A reputable accomplishment. CLABSIs can result in thousands of deaths each year as well as add significant costs to the healthcare system.

The air medical transportation service, AirMed, is based out of the UofU Health’s Level 1 Trauma Center and is one of only three trauma level units in the state. AirMed has six helicopters and two airplanes located throughout Utah and Wyoming that are ready 24/7 to assist trauma, burns, pediatric, high-risk obstetrics and more.

Extensive training and experience are required even to be considered to join the top-notch AirMed team. Flight nurses have at least five years of experience in a Level 1 Facility. Flight medics have a minimum five years of experience. Flight respiratory therapists have a minimum of two years of experience in an ICU and ER at the UofU Health.  Additionally, AirMed is one of the only perinatal teams in the country staffed around the clock with a high-risk OB nurse, a neonatal nurse, and a perinatal respiratory therapist. The average crew member has 17 years of experience.

The goal of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy is to expand the knowledge about developmental biology. It is also a valuable teaching tool for medical and dental students during the preclinical years. The department continues to grow. In the last three years, seven additional faculty members have joined the team.

The Entertainment Arts and Engineering program brings game developers and medical researchers together to develop innovative therapeutic apps and medical games. Projects include assisting in physical therapy for amputee patients, creating the ability for individuals to personalize control of a wheelchair and patient empowerment games.

The Utah State Legislature matched a private donation and appropriated $50 million for the Medical Education & Discovery Building. The project is projected to cost about $185 million. It will serve as an education and training hub for the UofU Health. Faculty, students and industry partners. They will be able to come together to create, test and implement solutions to challenging health problems.

UofU Health has more than 20,000 faculty and staff, is Utah’s only academic health system and it generates $77 million of state tax revenue.

Utah continues to rank as one of the top places for healthcare at the most affordable rate in the nation. This is due in large part to the dedicated doctors, nurses, scientists and staff.

November 2017 Legislative Calendar

Stay in the know about what is happening at the Utah House of Representatives.  Here is a list of November’s meetings. Click the committee to see the agenda, meeting materials and listen to live and past audio* of meetings.

Wednesday, November 1
10:00 a.m. Education Interim Committee

Thursday, November 2
3:00 p.m.  Property Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Tuesday, November 7
10: 00 a.m. Native American Legislative Liaison Committee

Wednesday, November 8
9:00 a.m. Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee

Thursday, November 9
10:00 a.m. Judicial Rules Review Committee
2
:00 p.m. Utah Tax Review Commission

Monday, November 13
9:00 a.m. Administrative Rules Review Committee
3:30 p.m. State Fair Park Committee

Tuesday, November 14
9:00 a.m. Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands
9:30 a.m. Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee
2:00 p.m. Executive Appropriations Committee
3:00 p.m. Legislative Water Development Commission
4:00 p.m. Legislative Audit Subcommittee 

Wednesday, November 15
8:00 a.m. Health and Human Services Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Business and Labor Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Education Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Government Operations Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Political Subdivisions Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Judiciary Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Transportation Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee
5:00 p.m. Commission on Federalism

Thursday, November 16
8:00 a.m. Legislative Policy Summit

 Monday, November  27
8:00 a.m. Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force
9:00 a.m. Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee
1:00 p.m. Health Reform Task Force

 Tuesday, November  28
2:00 p.m. Point of the Mountain Development Commission

*Not all meetings are streamed online.

 

Opioid Epidemic

 In the words of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is experiencing an opioid-induced “public health epidemic.”

In 2014, Utah ranked 4th in the nation for drug overdose deaths – an average of 6 people a week die in Utah  as a result of overdosing on prescription opioids. Last week, Speaker Greg Hughes made it clear that he would like the State of Utah to attack the opioid epidemic by litigating directly against those involved with these often harmful products. Within the last year, more than 25 states, counties and cities have filed civil suits against manufacturers, distributors and large drugstore chains. The Speaker believes that Utah can better tell its own story without joining a multi-state effort. We have unique issues and damages and will have a more impactful outcome by addressing this on our own.

For example, in 2013, the State of Utah settled a lawsuit with a large manufacturer for $8.5 million based on allegations that the drug manufacturer defrauded the state’s Medicaid program through allegedly false and misleading marketing. A multi-state collective settled the claims of 37 states and the District of Columbia for a total of $90 million. The average settlement in that effort resulted in $2.37 million per state. By going at it on our own, Utah received of three and a half times the amount of an individual state in the collective.

In 2009, the State of Utah settled a lawsuit with another large manufacturer for $24 million based on allegations that the drug manufacturer concealed its knowledge of significant side effects associated with a particular drug. A multi-state collective settled the claims of 32 states and the District of Columbia for a total of $62 million. The average settlement in that effort resulted in $1.88 million per state. By going at it on our own, Utah received nearly 13 times the amount of an individual state in the collective.

Speaker Hughes and members of the Utah Legislature will continue working on solutions address tragic epidemic.

In the News:

Doug Wright Show – Speaker Hughes wants UT to file lawsuit against Big Pharma

KSL News – Top name on Capitol Hill wants to take legal action against Utah opioid epidemic

Salt Lake Tribune: Get those dirty needles off the street

Deseret News: Trump’s announcement decrying opioid ‘public health emergency’ welcomed in Utah

Fox 13 News: Utah best state for federal opioid money, House Speaker Hughes says

Good 4 Utah: As state tackles opioid crisis, some call for legal action

Deseret News: The untold story of how Utah doctors and Big Pharma helped drive the national opioid epidemic

Winter Olympics

It has been 15 years since Salt Lake City hosted the Olympics, arguably the most successful Olympic Winter Games ever. Utah’s legacy is still vibrant and is benefiting economically from hosting the Games. Since 2002, Utah has hosted numerous world championship events in winter sports in the Salt Lake Valley and Park City.

Utah presence in the worldwide sports community continues to expand. For instance, more than 40 percent of the U.S. Olympic Team’s athletes that competed in Vancouver in 2010 either live or spend a significant amount of time training in Utah.

The Olympic/Paralympic Exploratory Committee (OEC) announced it would explore the possibility of submitting a bid to host the 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympic Games on October 19, 2017. Speaker of the House Greg Hughes and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser are key members of this committee.

Utah’s world-class facilities, venues and infrastructure would only need minimal updates. Additionally, our international airport, transportation system and lodging have expanded since the 2002 Games. Making Utah an ideal host for the Winter Olympics.

However, before proceeding the exploratory committee will thoroughly examine budgets, marketing, potential revenue streams and the overall impact on the state to factor whether it is of the state’s best interest to submit Salt Lake City’s name as a potential bidder.

Utah’s Economy

Utah’s economy is healthy and thriving. In FY 2017, individual income tax was up about 7.1 percent compared to the previous year; income tax revenue reached its all-time high for the fifth year in a row collecting $1.86 billion in sale tax; and the State’s Education Fund is on a healthy growth path increasing 4.1 percent in FY 2017.

The Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC) received a revenue update during the October meeting. The State of Utah’s General and Education Fund collected $47 million more than projected for FY 2017, which ended June 30. After statutorily required reserve account deposits, aka the rainy-day fund, the General Fund balance is $8 million and available Education Fund balance is $18 million.

The Legislative Fiscal Analyst staff predicts the economy will continue to increase this upcoming year.

Legal Opinion

Earlier this year, several serious questions regarding separation of powers and the role of the Executive Branch arose after the Governor overstepped his constitutional duty and set the time, place and manner of a special election to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

The Legislature requested a legal opinion from the Attorney General regarding the process to fill a vacancy when a Utah Congressperson resigns.

The opinion was completed, signed and ready to be delivered. But the Governor’s Office urged the Attorney General to not release the opinion claiming a conflict existed due to an attorney-client relationship, though, according to Section 67-5-1 (7) Utah Code: “The attorney general shall: (7) give his opinion in writing and without fee to the Legislature … when required, upon any question of law relating to their respective offices[.]”

On several occasions, the Legislature requested the legal opinion completed earlier this year be provided by the Attorney General and several media outlets requested the document be released under the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). The Attorney General’s Office denied those requests.

The Salt Lake Tribune appealed their denial to the State Records Committee, and that committee voted in favor of the Tribune getting access to the opinion. The Attorney General’s Office is now deciding whether to appeal the records committee ruling.

On Wednesday, October 18, the Legislative Management Committee unanimously passed a motion to “authorize legislative legal counsel to initiate litigation, as necessary, to obtain the requested legal opinion from the attorney general and to address any other legal issues that could arise or have arisen from that request.”

The Legislature believes that the Attorney General is required by law to provide the Legislature the legal opinion. The Legislative Management is seeking clarity as to the role of the Attorney General and whether court rules pertaining to attorney-client privilege exist, and if those rules trump the statute that has been defined in law directing the Attorney General to give the Legislature an opinion. Having this clarity will help to avoid similar situations in the future should they arise. Obtaining the legal opinion will be useful to have when drafting and considering legislation to establish a process for filling potential Congressional vacancies during the upcoming session.

Listen to the entire committee here.

Additional information:

Separation of Powers and Constitutional Concerns

Legislative Leaders Issue Statement on Separation of Powers

Two-Month Update on Operation Rio Grande

On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, Speaker Greg Hughes, Senator Wayne Niederhauser, Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox, Commissioner Keith Squires, Chief Mike Brown and homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson held a news conference to provide a two-month update about Operation Rio Grande (ORG).

Before ORG, many individuals who needed help found themselves in danger due to the lawlessness the existed in the Rio Grande district. Crimes were occurring on a regular basis.  However, because of ORG, the district is safer, law and order are being restored and services continue. During the news conference, homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson mentioned services provided in the area from entities like The Road Home and Catholic Community Services of Utah have not decreased since ORG began. Rather, individuals now feel safer, and those who are seeking assistance has increased

Salt Lake City Police Department Chief Mike Brown mentioned that ORG offers an opportunity for those experiencing homelessness, mentally ill and even criminals to connect with the available resources. Additionally, Part 1 crimes are down 24 percent, and Part 2 crimes are down 58 percent in the Rio Grande area.

Most business owners, employees who work downtown, volunteers at shelters and residents of the area are thankful for the collaboration of resources that are committed to addressing the public safety concerns in the area.

Since the launch of the operation, 61 new treatment beds, and 15 detox beds have become available. Nearly 900 coordinated services cards have been distributed, making it easier on those seeking help to connect with appropriate services.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, nine search warrants directly connected to intelligence gathered through ORG have been served that has led to 40 individuals arrested.

Additional information about the Dignity of Work phase of the operation is scheduled to be announced in November. It will include supportive services for individuals not ready for permanent employment to participate in pre-employment activities such as volunteerism, internships, training, workshops, skill development, and mentorships. As well as a work program to help those who have completed the “work-ready evaluation” and are ready for employment.

Operation Rio Grande is an on-going effort. There will be ups and downs. However, we must all remain diligent to overcome obstacles that arise over the next two years and committed to seeing this through to rid the area of criminal activity.

Watch the entire news conference here.

Watch the entire news conference to get a full an update on Operation Rio Grande here.

This infographic shows the successes and key items in progress.

Special Session – September 2017

Special Session

The Utah State Legislature convened its first special session of the year, in conjunction with September interim day, on Wednesday, September 20th. The purpose of the special session was to deal with the following issues:

H.B. 1001 Operation Rio Grande Funding Amendments addresses some of the cost of Operation Rio Grande (ORG) by creating a narrow, temporary exception in the Budgetary Procedures Act. It allows the Department of Workforce Services (DWS) to transfer or divert money to another department, agency, institution or division to support ORG until July 1, 2020.

Unused prior year funds, $4.9 million, will be transferred from the Department of Corrections to the General Fund, and then DWS to support the operation. From there, they will be disbursed to law enforcement, adjudication, corrections and to provide and address services for those experiencing homelessness in conjunction with ORG. The legislation also requires DWS to report these expenditures to the Legislative Executive Appropriations Committee and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

H.B. 1001 passed the House and Senate unanimously.

 

H.B. 1002 Road Closure Amendments amends provisions related to city authority to allow the temporary closure of roads owned by municipalities in mitigating unsafe conditions. It is a necessary part of the process of creating a Safe Homeless Services Courtyard in the Rio Grande area, to ensure those who need support to overcome homelessness are able to access available services, and to provide protection for those being preyed upon.

H.B. 1002 passed the House 71-1 and the Senate 26-1.

 

S.B. 1001 Port of Entry and Axle Weight Amendments changes the language in the statute governing vehicle weight from “shall” to “may,” to provide the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) the flexibility to determine whether to impose a penalty for overweight vehicles at ports of entry.  The previous statute required UDOT to impose a fine whether a vehicle was one pound or 5000 pounds overweight. Something as simple and unintentional as snow on the tires or on the vehicle itself could adversely affect the weight and trigger a fine. This change allows UDOT to take a more reasoned approach and apply discretion with regard to the imposition of such fines. It passed the House and Senate unanimously.

 

S.J.R. 101 Joint Resolution Approving the Flatiron/Harper Joint Venture proposed Settlement Agreement approves the proposed settlement agreement reached between the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and a construction company, Flatiron/Harper Joint Venture, for deficient work. The work was performed on a portion of SR-92 and resulted in UDOT having to sue several contractors. Both parties agreed to a settlement that would require UDOT to pay $102 million of the original $113 million contract, a savings of $11 million. It passed the House and Senate unanimously.

 

 

Safe Homeless Services Courtyard

A Safe Homeless Services Courtyard will allow providers to better understand those seeking services, enabling them to direct those individuals to the most suitable organizations and care. Existing facilities will be utilized, services will be coordinated and those seeking help in a period of crisis will be better assisted and protected. Criminal activity will be reduced and public safety will increase.

Additional law enforcement officers, random drug sniffing canines and security cameras in and around the courtyard will be added to help individuals feel protected and safe.

The services provided by The Road Home and Catholic Community Services will continue to be available. These consist of shelter, case management, employment support, computer lab, temporary assistance, housing support, restrooms, showers, food services and laundry.

New proposed services to the courtyard include additional restrooms, handwashing stations, bike lockers; a shaded space to protect individuals from the elements; outreach workers for service engagement and referrals to housing programs; mental health, medical and detox treatment; and employment.

A new Coordinated Services card will allow access to the courtyard, provide an ID for those seeking assistance and allow service providers the ability to coordinate in a meaningful way. This card will not be an official state-issued ID and those without it will not be denied access to food or shelter.

Creating an area that is safe and provides a refuge for those individuals who have all too often, in the past, avoided shelters because of the criminal and drug activity, is the least we can do for the most vulnerable among us as they seek our help in overcoming their current challenges.