Major Juvenile Service Cuts Coming to Utah as Part of State’s Legislative Budget

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After the loss of key federal funding and the end of a stopgap measure, state lawmakers in Utah are cutting the budgets of agencies providing crucial services to juvenile services.

After a federal decision to suspend funding of non-medical expenditures associated with residential care was made two years ago, Utah legislators provided its state agencies - such as Juvenile Justice Services (JJS) and Division of Child and Family Services (DFCS) - with emergency stopgap funds. This legislative session, however, stopgap funding for juvenile services programs ceased, with state legislators issuing an additional $3.2 million in budget cuts.

The impact of the federal decision on Utah was severe, costing the state an estimated $27 million in Medicaid funding. In the process, Utah’s JJS ended up losing an estimated $9 million per year, with the state DFCS agency losing an estimated $18 million annually.

The budget cuts are expected to eliminate 46 jobs in the state, with an additional 23 eliminated when the Weber Valley Detention Center closes next year. Six counties will see a reduction in youth center beds, with a majority of the state’s youth centers initializing a reduction in operating hours.

The cutbacks are most severe in Salt Lake County and Utah County, which will see a $222,900 reduction and a $121,500 reduction in funding, respectively.

While last-minute funding was amassed in order to keep most of the state’s facilities running through 2013, many analysts believe the cutbacks to rural communities may prove too much to surmount.

Ally Isom, a spokeswoman for Gov. Gary Herbet, told The Salt Lake Tribune that the cuts were “disheartening and tragic in so very many ways.”

"We’d like to see it addressed in future budgets,” she said. “Because if we don’t assist many of these youth in their present situation, they often end up in the adult system and incur further social costs and greater family tragedy.”

Photo from Randy Calderone.

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