Utah bill creating a new behavioral health commission passes the Senate, returned to House Rules Committee


Maddie McCarthy


A bill that would create the Utah Behavioral Health Commission has passed the Senate and was favorably recommended by the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the bill was returned to the House Rules Committee due to its fiscal impact.

The current fiscal note for Senate Bill 27, sponsored by Sen. Evan J. Vickers (R – Beaver County), requests an ongoing $188,400 from the general fund beginning in the fiscal year 2025.

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One major aspect of the bill is that it would absorb or take on the responsibilities of some of the different mental and behavioral health committees.

“One of the goals, one of the specific duties of that commission is to reduce the number of boards and commissions we have in the space,” Vickers said at the committee hearing on Tuesday.

Elizabeth Klc, director of the Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council, said the council would be one of those entities that would operate under the commission. 

“We will still be doing our work and all of the responsibilities, but through this commission I think we have a very clear and understandable pathway of representing the concerns of behavioral health, mental health, and substance use,” Klc said.

She said the council supports the bill.

Vickers also explained the makeup of the proposed commission.

“It’s a nine-member panel,” Vickers said. “… Those are experts and other people throughout the state and throughout the communities being appointed [in] various ways.”

Some will be appointed by the governor, the Senate president, and the House speaker.

Vickers said there are no legislators on the nine-person commission, which was a purposeful decision.

“The thought is that if we get [experts] in this space they can really go to work,” he said. “… Hopefully it will be the most important thing we do in the next 10 to 15 years. But they will actually take the information and look at it from their perspective on what really should be done.”

The legislators will not be left out of the commission entirely, however. Vickers said the bill would also form a five-member legislative policy committee to act as a bridge between the commission and the legislature. 

The policy committee will consist of one legislator chosen by the speaker of the House, one by the minority leader of the House, one by the Senate president, and one by the minority leader of the Senate. The final legislator will be chosen jointly by the House speaker and Senate president.

The bill recommends that the five appointees on the legislative side come from the Health and Human Services Interim Committee or the Social Services Appropriations Committees.

Once the commission’s experts decide on necessary policy changes, they would come to the legislative policy committee who could take the ideas to the interim committee. This is an especially important aspect of the bill because the commission would not have the ability to open bill files.

“Ideally I think that we would like to have any considerations come through this commission because they’re the experts in that field,” Vickers said. “[They] could give advice, help refine, make it better, tell you it’s terrible, or what. But there is no requirement for that.”

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