I have been a leader in addressing the needs of those in poverty in a way that allows them to retain their dignity and re-establish self-reliance. Sometimes people just need a hand up, and the state has a role to play in those circumstances where individuals are looking for help in bettering their own lives.
I have worked hand in hand with other members of House leadership to do just that as we sought to work with local leaders and law enforcement to clean up the area around the Rio Grande in downtown Salt Lake City. I sponsored HB 1002 (2018) that allowed for the state closure of the road around the shelter and homeless services so that the truly needy could be protected from the drug dealers and cartels that had set up shop there.
I also cosponsored HB 462 (2018) to create an ongoing funding mechanism for homeless shelters throughout the state, as well as HB 436 (2016), which provided funding for the building of the scattered-site homeless resource centers. These new centers will allow the homeless population to be served according to their specific needs as they become more self-supporting, instead of simply providing a place for them to sleep.
In order to seek to combat the growing problem of intergenerational poverty, I cosponsored HB 240 (2017), which uses a “pay for success” model—using private funds that are reimbursed only if successful—to help youth raised in poverty who’ve dropped out of school, are unemployed or under-employed and are eligible for public assistance. It moves them toward self-sustainability by providing opportunities to receive a high school diploma, develop critical skills for employment and begin down a career path.
Justice Reinvestment (JRI) has also been a major priority of the House leadership team as I’ve served. Utah’s recidivism rate is over 40 percent, about the same as the national average, and JRI seeks to change that by improving targeted treatment services while inmates are in prison. The focus is shifting away from a punitive approach, where possible, to one which seeks to truly rehabilitate and set individuals on a more productive path after leaving prison.
For this reason I cosponsored HB 348 (2015), which was the first step in the implementation of justice reform. We will continue to look at this bill and its effects, and make changes along the way where appropriate.
We have also implemented an electronic records system that allows all agencies within the system to share data and ensures that judges have access to screenings when making decisions. Upon arrest, each individual is screened and determinations are made about the type of criminal being dealt with – is this a hardened criminal or an individual with mental health or substance abuse issues who could benefit from treatment? We have also increased the amount of funds dedicated for mental health treatment, both in jails and out in the community.