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Utah Panel Makes Recommendations To Address Jail Deaths

Utah State Wasatch Prison

A state panel has made recommendations for how to deal with the high number of deaths in Utah's jails, such as screening inmate health before or immediately after booking. But lawmakers warn the suggestions could come with hefty price tags.

  The 27-member panel released a report Monday with recommendations aimed at curbing suicide and substance-related deaths after a record 27 jail deaths were reported in 2016.

If physical, behavioral health or suicide risks are found when inmates are booked, additional assessments should be conducted to determine possible disorders, the report recommended.

Medical, behavioral health or other staff should be able to work remotely with jail personnel to perform assessments or prescribe medication, according to the report.

When inmates are released, substance use and mental health treatment programs in jail should include referrals on release to community-based treatment and recovery support programs.

The panel has also recommended the formation of a committee to develop policies, procedures and protocols for treatment of inmates experiencing substance use and mental health disorders.

The cost of the recommendations has not been determined. State lawmakers will now consider whether to implement the plan.

"Everything you're talking about involves cost," said Reed Richards, a Weber County deputy attorney who represented the Utah Sheriffs' Association on the panel.

The panel has also suggested that state and counties try to obtain Medicaid funding to support some jail health care costs and that savings should be directed to the jails for care improvements.