5 Things Utah: Upcoming 2023 legislation, Mark Rapaport on mental health stigma, Summit County’s COVID response


Eli Kirshbaum


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday!

This month’s “5 Things We’re Watching” in Utah explores some of the teed-up legislation for Utah’s upcoming 2023 legislative session, insight from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute’s Mark Rapaport about mental stigma in Utah, and a county public health leader’s reflection on successful COVID response strategies.

Thanks, as always, for your support!

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform 


1. Prefiled bills/prepared legislation

With Utah’s 2023 legislative session set to begin on Jan. 7th, lawmakers are readying legislation to increase postpartum Medicaid coverage, provide dental care through Medicaid, and more. State of Reform reporter Boram Kim recently wrote an overview of some of the health-related bills that are being prepared ahead of the 2023 legislative session, including legislation related to Medicaid reform, transgender healthcare, and behavioral health.

After legislation to ban gender-affirming care for minors failed to pass last session, Republican lawmakers plan to reintroduce a bill to do so. To improve behavioral healthcare, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are supporting legislation to create additional mobile crisis response teams and to implement an audit of current mental health professions to produce a report for future legislation to support these professionals.


2. Interim health committee approves behavioral health bills for 2023

Other legislation prepared for 2023 includes 2 bills recently approved by the Health and Human Services Interim Committee at its last meeting of the year earlier this month. The bills concern building out Utah’s crisis support network and reviewing the licensure requirements and scope of practice for all of Utah’s mental health professionals.

Rep. Eliason, sponsor of the Crisis Response Commission Amendments, said the legislation—which would create additional mobile crisis response teams, among other things—”will simply further build out our system for components of the state where the demand is very high or where they’ve not had access to some of those resources.” The licensure review aims to inform the creation of a legislative report to guide future policy concerning mental health professionals.


3. What They’re Watching: Mark Rapaport, Huntsman Mental Health Institute

In this edition of “What They’re Watching,” Mark Rapaport, CEO of the University of Utah’s Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI), says tackling the stigma around mental health and the “ignorance and the prejudice” that comes along with it is important. According to HMHI, this stigma can take 3 general forms: widely held public stigma, negatively internalized self-stigma, and institutional stigma.

Rapaport explained how HMHI has been working to raise awareness about mental health challenges among the state’s youth. “We’ve got a public-private partnership right now to create a K-12 curriculum about brain health and mental health for kids … So it’s going to be interactive and really engage kids in a developmentally appropriate way about the brain and brain health.”



4. Summit County Public Health leader reflects on COVID response

In a recent conversation with State of Reform, Summit County Health Department’s Public Health Emergency Manager talked about the rural region’s successful pandemic response strategies, which include strongly adhering to FEMA’s National Incident Management System and emergency response guidance from the CDC. He said the “event-based planning structure” he gained from his background as a planner for the Olympic Games was critical to the response’s success.

SCHD released a detailed report of its COVID response earlier this month, which Crowley said will be used to strengthen future outbreak responses. Looking to the future, he said more support for Medical Reserve Corps—which were instrumental in the success of drive-through screening efforts and vaccination rollout—would be beneficial.


5. Employer-sponsored insurance in 2022

The country’s largest firms (over 1,000 workers) provide employer-sponsored insurance coverage for 57% of the entire ESI population, despite representing only 0.4% of all firms in the US. Citing findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual ESI survey, as well as a companion Health Affairs article from its authors, State of Reform Columnist James Capretta provides an overview of some of the survey’s most valuable findings about the insurance model that so many Americans rely on.

The survey highlighted that ESI premiums are notably high compared the the average employee wage—40% of the approximate average worker wage in the third quarter of 2022, $55,640. Capretta noted that ESI family coverage premiums have increased only slightly in recent years, with an average annual growth rate of 3.6%. However, he also predicts a sizeable premium increase in 2024, since insurers likely set their 2023 rates prior to becoming fully aware of inflationary impacts.