This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Salt Lake County's behavioral health officials outlined to the state this week how the county would spend its share of money from the partial Medicaid expansion approved last session by the Legislature and Gov. Gary Herbert.
What that plan won't contain is county District Attorney Sim Gill's scathing criticism of the meager support extended by state lawmakers to deal with mental-health and substance-abuse problems confronting the community.
The county's portion of state funding, he told the County Council before it approved the plan, "won't even come close to the need. This is a failure of public policy. We need to be doing full Medicaid expansion to meet our needs."
Mayor Ben McAdams and the County Council have endorsed for several years full Medicaid expansion, or at least the governor's rejected compromise plan known as Healthy Utah.
But when Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, finally negotiated a bill that adds 16,300 people to the list of Medicaid eligibility, McAdams joined Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and a number of health-care advocates in supporting the measure.
Gill said his barbs were not aimed at McAdams for getting behind the bill, but "at the Legislature and anyone else who is looking at this action as worthy of celebration."
"Beggars cannot be choosers," he told The Salt Lake Tribune later, "and from that perspective, we can be thankful that something was done. But when you drill down from the noise of self-congratulatory rhetoric, you find nothing worth celebrating."
Alyson Heyrend, McAdams' spokeswoman, said the mayor "respects that the D.A. articulated his perspective" and still believes Healthy Utah is the best solution, just not one that was going to pass the Legislature.
"But the $100 million in partial, traditional Medicaid expansion coverage does assist," she added, "with some of the longstanding needs of criminally involved individuals with substance-abuse issues, childless adults, the homeless and other individuals that Salt Lake County is responsible for serving, but lacks resources."
County Behavioral Services Director Tim Whalen said analysts originally expected the Legislature's $100 million expenditure including federal matching funds would cover 16,300 individuals statewide.
But he doubts the final number will be that high, citing "shrinking expectations on how many people they can serve."
Because Salt Lake County has 40 percent of the state's population, it is likely to receive a proportional amount of money from the allocation and can probably expect to see about 6,400 people getting services who weren't eligible before.
The first group to receive assistance, Whalen said, would be adults who are parents, followed by the chronically homeless, individuals on court-ordered probation or parole who have behavioral health conditions and, lastly, people not in the criminal-justice system who have a behavioral disorder.
An example, Whalen said, would be a single guy involved in "substance abuse with a co-occurring mental illness, but not a mental illness at a level of disability."
Comparing the number of people who will get this state assistance to the number who need it appalled Gill.
"It is unforgivable that we have people in need of medical treatment for mental illness and substance abuse who will not get help," he said.