Press Release: Provo Chief Makes Crime Prevention Case to Expand Health Coverage

Provo Police Chief John King on Tuesday called on state policymakers to accept federal funds to extend health insurance coverage to 97,000 Utah residents.

His reasoning: expansion of health coverage could prevent future crime and violence and save the state money. At an event in Provo, King outlined the benefits of expanding coverage, including reducing tragedies in the state, improving access to medical treatments for individuals with mental or behavioral issues and lowering child abuse and neglect.

King described the choice facing policymakers in stark terms: Utah could decide to accept federal funds and help people get the mental health and substance abuse treatment they need, or the state can pay the costs of not preventing crime and violence in the years to come. He emphasized the need for swift action for the sake of nearly 97,000 adults who could become insured and at least 6,000 Utah children who would be more likely to become enrolled if their parents gain coverage.

“One of the hardest parts of our jobs is knocking on the door and delivering news that a loved one will never be coming home,” said King. “Substance abuse and mental health disorders are so often at the root of these tragedies, and one of the best ways to prevent crimes or accidents is having access to treatment. We are here today to ensure policymakers know there is a clear-cut public safety case for expansion, and that their decision will impact our ability to fight crime and prevent violence in the coming years.”

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a report at the event, Our Officers Make That Knock on the Door, which highlights research showing that having a mental illness in addition to an alcohol or drug use disorder can increase the odds of engaging in violence by 26 times. The report also cites studies that find that proven medical treatments for troubled youths can cut future arrests in half or more.

Coverage expansion would also help reduce child abuse and neglect as up to two-thirds of cases involve parents who abuse drugs or alcohol. With coverage, many parents would start to receive drug and alcohol treatment, which could substantially reduce the nearly 9,300 confirmed child victims of abuse and neglect every year in Utah.

As detailed in Our Officers Make That Knock on The Door, expanded coverage can lead to fewer deaths from external causes, more children and teens screened and treated for health issues, and less child abuse and neglect.

The report also emphasizes savings that will result from coverage expansion. The entire cost of extending health insurance to more low-income residents in Utah would be covered by the federal government through 2016, and 90 percent by the federal government in the years afterwards. That could lead to big savings for taxpayers, based on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report that spotlighted research showing eight states that expanded healthcare saw budget and revenue gains of $1.8 billion after just one and a half years. The largest savings came from reduced state spending on mental health and behavioral healthcare.

To view Our Officers Make That Knock on The Door visit