Committee stresses mental health, substance abuse screenings

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Doing intensive mental health and substance abuse screenings for people who enter Utah county jails was identified as a priority for state officials several years ago.

But the money has dried up and now lawmakers are searching for ways to find more funds, the Standard-Examiner reported .

The state spent $2.5 million in 2016 on an intensive jail intake screening program that helped counties improve the reviews during the booking process, said Dave Walsh, deputy director of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

But funding for that program declined to about $800,000 in the most recent year.

“The funding isn’t really there anymore, so the jails wouldn’t be able to do this if we recommend it,” said Mary Lou Emerson, director of the Utah Substance Abuse Advisory Council, a workgroup that lawmakers created to look into jail substance abuse.

“There is a recognition there would need to be additional resources,” she said.

The advisory council met earlier this week to refine potential proposals to submit to the Legislature for consideration in the 2019 session.

The workgroup will meet again Wednesday to finalize recommendations.

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