Bills addressing pig theft, funding for rural mental health advances in the House of Representatives on Friday

Utah lawmakers on Friday approved funding for two additional mental health crisis response teams for Cache County and Winta Basin. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — House lawmakers capped off the second week of the ongoing legislative session by approving funding for mental health crisis reception centers in rural Utah, and amending court defenses after animal activists. He is found not guilty after eating sick piglets From a Beaver County farm.

Rep. Carl Albrecht, R. Richfield, who sponsors HB114He said his bill is an attempt to protect farmers and agricultural producers from activists who he says are trying to raise money from publicity gained from high-profile “vigilance” acts.

The activists were on trial for taking sick pigs from Circle Four Farms in Milford, Beaver County, in March 2017, which was part of a larger effort by Direct action everywhere. It was an attempt to expose the issues surrounding the treatment of livestock at what the group describes as the largest pig farm in the world, owned by Smithfield Foods.

Albrecht’s bill would prevent shoplifting suspects from using the defense of animal illness, injury, or owner liability. Albrecht said that defense attorneys would still be allowed to present this argument as part of the defense, but that it would not be a legal defense that the prosecution would have to refute.

“Farmers need protection from burglary and theft,” Albrecht said. “Activists do not have the right to declare themselves inspectors and then engage in private vigilantism.”

Supporters of the bill said it only applies to livestock, not pets, and does not affect a person’s ability to, say, rescue a dog locked in a car on a hot day. Rep. Doug Owens, D-Melcreek, said he was initially concerned the bill might harm animals, but changed his mind once he realized it was limited to livestock.

“I tried as hard as I could,” he said, “I can’t see how that would hurt the animals.”

“Sometimes people have good intentions, but a lack of experience doesn’t allow people to make the best judgment” when they see cattle that may be sick or injured, said Rep. Scott Chew, R. Jensen.

HB114 swept the House 65-4 — with Democratic Representatives Joel Briscoe (Salt Lake City), Sandra Hollins (Salt Lake City), Carol Spackman Moss (Holladay) and Angela Romero (Salt Lake City) in opposition — and will head to the Senate for approval.

Financing rural mental health

The House of Representatives also approved HB66which provides nearly $16 million in grants to fund the formation of Mobile Crisis Liaison Teams and up to two teams Mental health crisis reception centers In rural Utah. The plan is to add two crisis centers in Cache County and the Winta Basin, where patients are often transported to hospitals on the Wasatch front for emergency mental health care, said Rep. Bill Steve Eliason, R. Sandy.

It will also fund up to five mobile crisis outreach teams for even smaller communities that may never be able to support permanent centres.

Eliason said the facilities in Utah with the highest number of mentally ill patients are jails and jails because law enforcement officers have been the primary responders to mental health crises.

“Sending someone to prison because of a mental health emergency has been done for far too long,” he said.

Chew thanked Ellison for changing an earlier version of the bill to provide more resources for those living in rural Utah.

“It will help rural Utah a lot more, and we appreciate that,” he said.

HB66 was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives and will go to the Senate for further consideration.

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for Graduated from Utah Valley University.

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