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UT governor signs slew of bills targeting homelessness, mental health

FollowTheFlow - stock.adobe.com

Almost 2,900 people are unsheltered on any given night in the Beehive State. Gov. Spencer Cox is celebrating signing nine bills he says are geared toward improving the state's homelessness prevention and mental-health systems.

Cox said homelessness and housing were among his top priorities heading into 2024. He asked the Legislature for about $128 million in his budget to address the issue. While Cox wasn't granted the full amount, he said he's pleased with the more than $81 million to be used to alleviate homelessness in Utah.

"It was a grueling session, it was a difficult one," he said, "but we ended up in a great place."

One of the bills, House Bill 394, now requires the state's Homeless Network Steering Committee to create a funding appropriation formula to ensure these funds are being distributed statewide.

Senate Bill 26 will make changes to Utah's behavioral-health licensing provisions. It's intended to remove barriers for people entering the profession and increase the number of mental-health providers.

Cox called the passage of a total of nine bills a "historic achievement."

State Rep. Tyler Clancy, R-Provo, is a co-sponsor of House Bill 298, changing the state's current Homelessness Council to the Utah Homeless Services Board. It specifies a goal of having more people exiting homelessness than entering it. Clancy said the law also creates standards for programs to track their progress on reducing homelessness, drug abuse and camping.

"We're looking at accountability metrics," he said, "and making sure that as people flow through our system, that we measure success based on how many people can move on to self sufficiency."

Clancy said he realizes that a mother fleeing domestic violence with children will need a much different intervention than an individual living on the streets. He contended that Utah will now have better policies in place to help connect people to more tailored services.