A law that goes into effect this week will attempt to lure mental health providers to Utah and reward those currently practicing in the state with tax credits.
Utah has long suffered from a shortage of psychiatrists and mental health care providers. What that means for the residents isn’t good: wait times can take months, physicians here are paid less than in other states and access to services in rural areas is limited. There are other impacts too.
"Suicide recently became the leading cause of death for our 10 to 17-year-olds. If you have a three-month wait to get into a child psychiatrist, that doesn’t really work as a parent," says Steve Eliason.
Eliason is a Republican State Representative. Last year he drafted HB265, a tax credit known as the Mental Health Practitioner Amendment. It goes into effect this week.
Eliason’s bill creates a $10,000 tax credit for licensed psychiatrists in Utah who work with several underserved groups: veterans, Native Americans and homeless people, as well as those working in rural parts of the state.
"Utah is a very urban state because we have so many people right along the Wasatch Front. But in some ways that makes the outlying, rural areas much more remote," he says.
The law also allows psychiatrists to get the tax break if they work in urban areas and use telemedicine – services provided online - to reach residents in remote parts of the state.
In addition to being a member of the legislature, Eliason is a certified public accountant. With this bill he’s hoping a financial incentive will be a step towards better health outcomes in the state.