Health and Human Services Interim Committee holds first meeting

The Health and Human Services Committee held their first monthly interim meeting yesterday to discuss potential upcoming legislation, COVID-19 and plans for issues like substance abuse and mental health. 


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Two bills were discussed as potential pieces of legislation in the special session. 

Senate Bill 1006 rectifies a vetoed bill pertaining to hemp legality and background checks. This revised bill would keep the Delta-8 THC, the component responsible for the “high” feeling,  levels lower and update the background check requirements to reduce the expenses for hemp producers. It would also make it clearly unlawful to add cannabinoid products to food that is not a dietary supplement, add to an alcoholic beverage or in a treat that might be enticing to children.

Senate Bill 1003 amends law concerning the sale of electronic cigarettes. This bill tightens the preexisting illegal sale of nicotine from a tobacco retailer to a person under the age of 21. 

Senator Curtis Bramble, sponsor of SB 1003, said:

“This bill is simply about correcting some inconsistencies and allowing the Department of Health to move forward with the regulatory structure that the legislature passed.”

Next, the committee heard a COVID-19 update from Melissa Diamond, assistant director of the Division of Disease Control and Prevention at the Utah Department of Health.


Image: Utah Department of Health


According to Diamond, although Utah sees around 300 new cases a day, the case to death ratio is at less than 1%. This is due to social distancing, handwashing and increasing COVID-19 vaccinations. As of May 17th, 57.3% of Utah’s population 16 and over has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Diamond also updated the committee on the COVID-19 case and vaccination targets implemented by HB 294, which was signed in March 2021.


Image: Utah Department of Health


Cases, hospitalizations and vaccine allocations are all reaching beyond their targets. 

Diamond said:

“While restrictions have incrementally loosened, the incidence rate and the 7-day average percent ICU utilization continue to decrease.”

The Utah Hospital Association (UHA) presented an update on the substance abuse and mental health struggles facing Utah. Greg Bell, president and CEO of UHA, thanked the legislature for their continued funding and collaboration for behavioral health in Utah . 

“I can only thank you for what you’ve done, relative to behavioral health. It’s really remarkable what the state of Utah and what many groups working together have accomplished.”

However, Bell pointed out there continues to be issues in this sector. These barriers to care include the stigma around mental health, the lack of behavioral health coverage on insurance plans, the lack of workforce and limited space in the Utah State Hospital. 

“We need help in the rural areas of the state, but local health authorities are doing tremendous work. But they have a shortage of resources, which we will have to augment.”

Bell discussed the need for Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention funding, which includes mobile response teams in conjunction with 988 crisis line infrastructure. This funding can support the infrastructure needed to help support the Continuum of Care, according to Bell.


Image: Utah Department of Health


According to Bell, Acute/Inpatient care is continuously being overloaded due to the lack of resources in the community-based providers who can provide early intervention. This early intervention is vital to reducing the burden on the Utah State Hospital acute care services and get people better and more personal care.