5 Things in Utah: Local Health Departments, Adolescent Behavioral Health, DHHS Implementation – A State of Reform

This is the last bulletin before Utah has a new, combined health agency; The Ministry of Health and Social Services is due to open on July 1st.

Read more about the upcoming merger below, as well as urging local health departments to have more feedback on how their funding is distributed, talk to Valley Behavioral Health CEO and new data on adolescent mental health in Utah.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Eli Kirschbaum
Status of the reform

1. Heads of local health departments are calling for more financial independence

Local health departments need more information on how local, state, and federal money is used to fund their operations, according to many local health leaders. At a recent meeting of the Temporary Committee on Health and Human Services, advocates called on lawmakers to reform the way local health departments are funded so that each jurisdiction can manage its funding based on its specific needs.

Funding at the local level is managed by district commissioners and is thus subject to change on the basis of elections. Stakeholders say this funding structure is also complicated by health departments that control more than one county. An audit of the Utah Management Committee, which manages the federal funding Utah receives, found a lack of transparency and recommended enhanced cooperation with UDOH and local health departments. “We don’t often feel we have much of a say in what we do,” said Gina Watten, first vice president of the Utah County Association.

2. Questions and Answers: Valley Behavioral Health CEO on the state of the BH workforce

Unsurprisingly, the number one problem facing behavioral health care in Utah today is a shortage of manpower, according to Jared Sanford, president and CEO of Valley Behavioral Health. In these questions and answers, Sanford discusses how labor shortages in BH are a particular management challenge in the midst of BH’s growing need for services after the pandemic.

Sanford says this has forced his facility to turn down many patients. “You never want to see people fall through the cracks, but I’m worried that people who need care may not find it quickly and just give up,” he said. Although he believes there is no “silver bullet” to solve the problem, Sanford says potential solutions include higher wages and better compensation for BH’s suppliers, special time off for self-service and a stronger recruitment channel. suppliers to BH.

3. What they watch: Stephen Foxley, Regence BlueCross BlueShield from Utah

The end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) poses a risk to those who have received Medicaid coverage throughout the pandemic but may not be eligible when the redefinition begins again. Stephen Foxley, Director of Government Affairs at Regence BlueCross BlueShield in Utah, sat down with us to discuss Regence’s efforts to create a seamless transition for Medicaid members who may no longer qualify for the market or insurance from their employer.

Foxley said Regence is working to coordinate with key health plan and coverage stakeholders to share meaningful data and gain a lead in redefinition to ensure a smooth transition from Medicaid. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but I think we will want to make sure that we coordinate with the Ministry of Health – soon to be the Ministry of Health and Human Services – other ACOs and suppliers’ partners to make sure that [conversations around coordinating the redetermination effort] it will happen, “Foxley said.

4. Utah will have a new DHHS next week

Utah is approaching what is perhaps the most anticipated development of health policy in the state: the merger of the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services, which is due to be finalized on July 1. Joe Doherty, communications director of the new health and human services department, said the remaining work was mainly to strengthen internal operational efficiency and ensure that the department was “legally and fully operational.”

Doherty also said management is finalizing DHHS ‘new website and new employees’ intranet, and ensuring that all accounts and salaries are combined in the new consolidated department. DHHS ‘s transition plan notes that work will remain after the July 1 implementation date, including the development of a combined IT system, employee culture training and performance indicators for the new department.

5. The needs of BH adolescents are increasing, the use of substances is decreasing in 2021

UDOH, DHS and the State Board of Education recently partnered to publish a report on the behavioral health status of adolescents in Utah, which revealed notable jumps in behavioral health needs among the population in 2021. The report, which uses data from recent needs to prevent SHARP An evaluation study found that adolescents in the state had a 6% higher rate of “psychological distress” and a 5% higher rate of feelings of sadness or hopelessness compared to 2019 levels.

In addition to those on statistics, the report also reveals a decline in substance use among adolescents in Utah last year. The number of adolescents who report using vape products more than anything else, 7.8%, is a decrease of 5% compared to 2019. Adolescents who drink alcohol (3.1% in 2021) have decreased by nearly 2% from 2019. The use of marijuana, the use of drugs that have not been not prescribed, and cigarette smoking also decreased in 2021.

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