Taking a closer look at some Utah bills

Here are three bills plus one declaration about maternal mental health that deserve a closer look.

No, you can’t share that picture – When Lauren McCluskey was being stalked and threatened by the man who would eventually kill her, she went to campus police at the University of Utah for help. During one of multiple visits, Lauren shared with officer Miguel Deras an explicit picture of herself that was being used to extort her. Officer Deras then shared that photo multiple times with colleagues, including the night of Lauren’s murder, when another investigating officer said at the crime scene, “I wonder what she looked like.”

However unprofessional, unethical and inappropriate Deras’ behavior, Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill said in October that there was no legal avenue that would allow criminal charges to be brought against Deras. HB59 will change that. Rep. Andrew Stoddard, a municipal prosecutor when the legislature is not in session, is the sponsor of a bill that will make it a crime for a police officer or prosecutor to share, copy or display an intimate image related to a criminal investigation. The bill passed the House unanimously on Tuesday and heads to the Senate. 


Looking after the mental health of first responders – Rep. Karen Kwan is sponsoring a bill that would require the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to administer a grant program to provide mental health resources to first responders. HB248 would appropriate $1 million in one-time money for agencies to develop or enhance their mental health resources. The bill passed out of the House yesterday with 61 yea votes and 11 nay votes, all from Republican representatives. It now goes to the Senate, where Republican Dan Thatcher will be the Senate sponsor. 

Racism as a public health crisis – Rep. Sandra Hollins has introduced a resolution declaring racism to be a “moral and public health crisis.” H.J.R.13 highlights racial disparities in health care, including the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on minority communities and notes multiple organizations that have noted and called out systemic racism including the American Public Health Association, the American Psychological Association and the Utah Hospital Association which issued a statement on January 12, 2021 declaring racism a “public health crisis…[that] is a threat to the health of Utah patients, families, and communities” and declaring their commitment to addressing the public health crisis of racism. At the time of the UHA statement, Dr. Michael Good, CEO and dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, said: “We believe that systemic anti-black racism is one of the major causes of health disparities that we observe in our society.” Rep. Hollins resolution also points to Utah’s Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion signed by business and community leaders from around the state and the One Utah Roadmap released by the Cox/Henderson administration. Her bill has not yet been assigned a committee hearing.  

February 2021 to be Maternal Mental Health Month – Utah moms have too often suffered in silence when struggling with mental health related to childbirth. Significant efforts to address this health crisis have resulted in the development of a Utah-based maternal mental health referral website that offers a “directory of professionals and support groups with training in perinatal mental health (perinatal means during pregnancy and postpartum). The resources listed can provide help for depression, anxiety, infertility, miscarriage, birth trauma, and more.” The most recent report from the Utah Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) reveals that 43% of Utah moms with a recent live birth were affected by depression or anxiety. Governor Cox and First Lady Abby Cox will be joined by survivors, health care professionals and others on a Zoom call Wednesday to noon to declare February Maternal Health Month.