Friday, September 28, 2012

Medicaid Autism Pilot Project Accepting Applications Monday

(Salt Lake City) – Up to 250 Utah children will be eligible to receive treatment for their clinically-diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) through a new Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Medicaid autism pilot program. Services will be available to a limited number of children through a Home and Community-Based waiver that was approved by the federal government earlier this week.

Applications for the program will be available beginning Monday, October 1 at

The program will provide intensive individual support for children with ASD, as well as respite care and financial management services for their families.  Data have shown that early, intensive treatment gives children with ASD the best chance to reach their full potential.

State Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove sponsored legislation (HB 272) during the 2012 legislative session to create the program. The state anticipates spending $4.5 million over the two-year life of the pilot project, with the federal government contributing an additional $10.5 million.

“Autism is a significant challenge in our state, and it’s not going away,” said Rep. Menlove.  “This program is a small, but wonderful, step in the right direction.  We recognize there are still thousands of families who need these services for their children.  Hopefully, what we learn from this program will help us develop a more permanent solution for them,” Menlove added.

To enroll in the program, applications must be received by Wednesday, October 31.  Applications can be submitted on-line at  Parents can also print the application and fax or mail it.  Parents are also encouraged to sign up on the website to receive e-mail updates about the program, including information on future application periods.

Once the application period ends, UDOH staff will assign a randomly-generated ranking to each eligible applicant.  In order to ensure statewide access, program openings will be assigned geographically by local health district based on each district’s population. 

To be eligible for the program, a child must be a Utah resident with a date of birth between April 1, 2007 and October 31, 2010.  The child must also not have assets (bank accounts, trust funds, etc.) of more than $2,000 in his or her name. Unlike traditional Medicaid, a parent’s income and assets are not considered when determining the child’s eligibility.

“This is a unique opportunity to provide treatment to Utah children living with ASD that wouldn’t be possible without the excellent leadership and hard work of our Medicaid program, and the forward thinking of my fellow legislators and the Governor’s staff,” Menlove added.

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Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko
UDOH Public Information Officer
(o) 801.538.6232
(m) 801.560.4649

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Governor Hosts 2012 Utah Health Summit

(Salt Lake City) – Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert convened nearly 500 of the state’s brightest public health and health policy minds for his second annual Governor’s Health Summit today in Salt Lake City. With a focus on individual and community health, Summit participants worked to further identify strategies and policies that will help ensure Utah’s health reform efforts allow Utahns to be the healthiest people in the nation, and do so at an affordable cost.

“We can’t have an honest discussion about health reform if our ultimate focus is not people’s health,” said Gov. Herbert. “If we are going to drive down the costs of health care, we have to make an effort to drive down the rates of chronic disease that fuel so much of the health care spending in our state.”

To that end, Gov. Herbert used the Summit to launch his Governor’s ‘Choose Health’ Challenge, a 10-week long program where cabinet members, state agencies, and legislators will be invited to compete with the Governor in adopting healthy behaviors.

“The Governor has shown real leadership in recognizing the important role personal and community health plays in health reform,” said Utah Department of Health executive director David Patton. “Obviously, a 10-week challenge will not solve our problems, but it demonstrates the Governor’s commitment to ensuring state employees work in an environment that values wellness.”

Other discussions at the Summit centered on critical health policy decisions the state will make in the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Such decisions include how to move forward with the Utah Health Exchange and whether or not to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

Expanding Medicaid, as envisioned in the ACA, would add an additional 111,400 people to the program and would cost the state nearly $1.2 billion over the next decade. Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, led Summit participants through a discussion about the potential costs and benefits the State should consider in determining how to address the potential expansion.

“We are still reviewing the Medicaid expansion in Utah,” Gov. Herbert said during his keynote address. “The right thing to do is take time to carefully, deliberately plan to improve the whole program. Whether improvement means some degree of expansion, a series of new waivers, or, ideally, a block grant, Utah will seek whichever course of action serves our residents best and in the most efficient way.”

The Governor also used the Summit to outline his guiding principles regarding health reform: personal responsibility, living within budgetary constraints, allowing the states to be innovators, providing help to those who need it in a compassionate way, and relying on free market principles.

Prior to the Summit, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell led a panel discussion on medical liability reform. Panel members discussed several strategies to help reduce medical malpractice claims and costs, while improving patient safety and reducing health care costs.

“Through collaboration, innovation, and hard work, I believe we can continue to make Utah a global health care leader,” the Governor said.

# # #
Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko, UDOH
(o) 801.538.6232
(m) 801.560.4649

Monday, September 24, 2012

Governor to Host 2012 Health Summit

What:             The second annual Governor's Health Summit comes at a pivotal time, as leaders in both government and the private sector face critical decisions about the future of health care in Utah.  Local and national health policy experts will discuss topics like how to ensure Utah communities are healthy communities, Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and health insurance exchanges.

Governor Gary R.  Herbert will also use the Summit to kickoff his “Governor’s ‘Choose Health’ Challenge.”

The entire Summit is open to the media. For a full agenda, visit  Also, see below for information on suggested media opportunities.

Who:               Governor Gary R. Herbert
                        David Patton, UDOH Executive Director
                        Susan Dentzer, Editor-in-Chief, Health Affairs

When:             Tuesday, September 25, 2012
                        8:30 a.m. – 1:45 p.m.

Where:            Grand America Hotel – Ballrooms B & C
                       Salt Lake City, Utah


8:30 a.m. – 9:40 a.m.: Opening Session, Governor Herbert issues “The Governor’s ‘Choose Health’ Challenge”

10:15 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Governor Herbert media availability. The governor will conduct interviews while undergoing a personal health test as part of “The Governor’s ‘Choose Health’ Challenge”
                        1:00 p.m.: Governor Herbert’s keynote address

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blood Pressure Out of Control for Too Many Utahns

(Salt Lake City, UT) – This month’s Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the majority of people with high blood pressure are taking medication yet their condition remains uncontrolled. Uncontrolled high blood pressure (HBP) is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and Utah.

“While Utah fares better than the nation, this is still a major concern,” says Athena Carolan, Health Program Specialist with the Utah Department of Health’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program (HDSPP). “More than one-third (36.3%) of Utah commercial health plan enrollees with high blood pressure do not have their disease under control.”

The report finds one successful approach to controlling HBP is using team-based care. This system brings together pharmacists, nurses, dietitians, and community health workers to support doctors in identifying and treating patients. “We understand the value of this approach and are exploring partnerships with pharmacies and community health workers to help Utahns get a handle on their blood pressure,” said Carolan. 

Individuals can take control of their HBP by following doctor’s instructions for medications and treatment. 
In Utah, 1 in 4 adults have high blood pressure, which is defined as blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 mm-Hg. People with high blood pressure are four times more likely to die from a stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease. 

For more information about how to control high blood pressure, visit

Media Contact:
Athena Carolan
HDSPP Health Specialist
(801) 538-9209

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obese Children Face Serious Health Problems, Now and Later

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Nearly one-fourth of Utah 3rd-graders are at an unhealthy weight, and more boys than girls are overweight or obese.  These statistics, along with new facts about childhood unhealthy weight in Utah, were released today in the Childhood Overweight in Utah, 2012 report. 

“The report is being released during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month to highlight a public health problem plaguing our youth,” said Melanie Wallentine, Health Communications Specialist with the Utah Department of Health’s (UDOH) Physical Activity, Nutrition & Obesity (PANO) Program.

If left unchecked, conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, once primarily affecting adults, will increasingly bombard children. 
“The percentage of obese children has more than tripled since the 1960s,” said Rebecca Fronberg, PANO Program Manager. “Overweight and obese children are also more likely to become obese adults.  We hope this information will help Utahns understand the magnitude of childhood obesity in our state.” 

Childhood obesity can be reduced through lifestyle changes.  Some strategies include:
  • Children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
  • Children should eat at least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 1½ to 3 cups of vegetables daily.
  • Children should rarely have sugar-sweetened drinks and should eat few high-calorie foods with little or no nutritional value.
  • Parents should limit screen time (television, computer, and video games) for children age 2 and older to no more than two hours per day, and zero hours for children under age 2.

The PANO Program supports community efforts to combat childhood obesity. An example includes the TOP Star (Targeting Obesity in Preschool and Child Care Settings) Program, which works with child care providers to increase physical activity and improve nutrition in licensed child care facilities.  “A healthy environment allows children to develop healthy habits,” stated Jessica Haymond, PANO Program Healthy Child Care Coordinator.

In addition, Gold Medal Schools™, a program adopted by several Utah schools, improves students’ academic success through policies and environmental changes that support good nutrition, physical activity, and staying tobacco-free.  

“Gold Medal Schools makes it possible for elementary schools to provide physical activity and healthy nutrition choices at a time when budget cuts and testing requirements overshadow physical activity and nutrition,” said Sarah Roundy, Health Specialist with the PANO Program.

For a copy of the report and for ideas on how to help your child eat better and maintain a healthy weight, visit

Media Contact:
Melanie Wallentine
Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Program
(o) 801-538-6514

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Reports Detail Utah Suicides, Suicide Attempts

(Salt Lake City, UT) – A series of new reports from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) are a startling reminder of the tragic loss too many Utah families experience with suicide. In 2010, 456 Utahns took their own lives, up from 357 in 2006. Preliminary data suggest the number of suicides will exceed 500 for 2011.

“Suicide is one of those things that can be uncomfortable to talk about,” said Jenny Johnson with the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “But the data show this is an alarming problem in our state that we can’t ignore any longer.”  Johnson adds that many Utahns would be surprised to learn how many people close to them have dealt with the issue.

The data point to age-specific circumstances and stressors surrounding risk for suicide deaths in Utah. For example, youth who completed suicide were more likely to have school and other relationship problems, while young adults were more likely to have intimate partner problems.

Among adults, the data show many suffered from a diagnosed mental illness. Adult men in particular face a myriad of other risk factors, including alcohol and substance abuse and job or financial problems. Older adults were more likely to suffer from physical health problems that may have prompted the suicide.

Since 2006, an average of 402 Utahns died from suicide and 4,152 more were hospitalized or treated in an emergency department due to injuries from a suicide attempt each year. The data show that men ages 25-64 account for more than half (53.2%) of all suicide deaths in Utah, followed by women ages 25-64 (16.5%), young adults ages 18-24 (13.9%), older adults ages 65+ (9.5%), and youth ages 10-17 (3.7%). While males had higher rates of suicide death than females, more females attempt suicide than males.

To combat the problem, agencies from across the state have formed the Suicide Prevention Coalition. The Coalition has developed a plan to decrease the number of suicides and suicide attempts in Utah and will launch a public education and awareness campaign later this year. Among other efforts, the campaign will address the stigma about seeking help for suicidal thoughts and feelings. 

The Coalition is chaired by the UDOH and Utah Department of Human Services (DHS), with representation from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Army and Air National Guards, Veterans Affairs, University of Utah, Utah State Office of Education, Utah Pride Center, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Primary Children’s Medical Center, local police departments, public and private mental health providers, family survivors, and advocate groups.

“The goal is for all Utahns to recognize that treatment and intervention work. Suicide is a public health problem and is preventable,” said Amy Buehler with the DHS Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. “If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or talking about suicide, know that help is available. Don’t give up. You are not alone.”

All suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts should be taken seriously. Get help 24/7 by calling the Statewide CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK. Help is also available online at Trained consultants will provide free and confidential crisis counseling to anyone in need.

To download the suicide data reports visit

Media Contacts:
Jenny Johnson
Violence and Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569
Amy Buehler
Department of Human Services
(o) 801-538-3941 (m) 801-699-0895