5 Things Utah: Special session, Robert Harrison, dental day clinics

With fall around the corner, college football underway, and the kids heading back to school, it’s sometimes easy to put politics off. That’s certainly good for one’s mental health these days! But, this is the calm before the storm…  We are 139 days before the Iowa caucuses, which will kick off an escalation of health policy in the national conversation.

In Utah, that energy may spur new health care-related initiatives on the 2020 ballot. Until then, we have five more modest things we’re watching in Utah health policy for September, 2020.


With help from Emily Viles

1. Special session focuses on marijuana

The first special legislative session convened last night with the first round of discussions on medical marijuana, beer storage, and census funding, among other issues.  The medical marijuana ballot initiative passed last year, with iterations from the legislature during this year’s session.  But the new law has come with criticism from both sides of the aisle.

Policy makers passed proposals last evening that would change the state-run dispensary model.  Changes to patient protection laws also passed.  The issue is not yet put to bed as legislators expressed concern over accessibility in rural parts of the state.


2. Vaping problems in Utah grow rapidly

The CDC is investigating 193 potential cases of vaping-related illness in 22 states, but that number has now increased to 450 possible cases in 33 states. In August, the Utah Dept. of Health said it was investigating 5 such cases. Then Sept 3rd, the number grew to 28. Yesterday, it said the number was 42.

Despite electronic cigarettes entering the market nearly 10 years ago, laws regulating the products have just begun to surface. This session, HB 252 changed the legal age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products from 19 to 21. The same bill also added a sin tax to electronic cigarettes and vaping products to be in line with taxes on other tobacco products in the state. It is likely, given recent illnesses, that additional legislation may be introduced in the coming session.

3. Video: Robert Harrison, Stilling and Harrison

Robert Harrison is a founding partner at Stilling & Harrison, PLLC. He focuses his practice on regulatory compliance, medical staff and hospital governance, licensing and accreditation, and organizational ethics. In this edition of “What They’re Watching”, Harrison talks about how politics and elections can create legal and compliance threats for organizations down the road.

“The interesting thing about this upcoming political season is that both Republicans and Democrats want to replace the ACA. Republicans with a different version, Democrats, at least today, with a ‘Medicare for All’ type of proposal… We are very focused on how that is going to unfold, and trying to stay slightly ahead of that so that we can better advise clients.”


4. Access to oral health via dental day clinics

The DoH Office of Health Disparities (OHD) has been working to improve access to oral health care for disparate communities using dental day clinics. A new report from the Department found that 92% of volunteers who worked at dental day clinics said their participation in the clinics increased the likelihood they would accept patients from diverse and vulnerable backgrounds in their current or future clinical practices.

The report also makes a number of recommendations to increase access to care, with a focus on multi-silo collaboration: “It is recommended educational institutions, professional organizations such as local dental and dental hygiene associations, and community partners work together to provide these types of experiences for the current and future oral health workforce as it will likely improve their comfort in treating patients from diverse backgrounds.”

5. 4,390 kids married in Utah, 2000-2010

According to a recent report, 248,000 kids between the ages of 12-18 were married in the US from 2000-2010.  In Utah, state data reported 4,390 such marriages. From the report:  “Some 77% of the children wed were minor girls married to adult men, often with significant age differences. Some children were wed at an age, or with a spousal age difference, that constitutes statutory rape under their state’s laws.”

Utah is 5th overall in child marriages per capita.  Idaho is first. This national study, which took over a year to develop, comes in the wake of the legislature passing HB 234, which moved up the minimum age to marry in Utah to 16 years old.