Jim Dunnigan awarded Representative of the Year for 2023

Left to Right: Devin Jensen Rep. Jim Dunnigan, and Mariah Hurst. Mariah, YPA Executive Director, awards Rep. Dunnigan with the Legislator of the Year award.

Legislative Support Means Rate Increases for Private Providers

The Youth Providers Association’s goal this year was simple: achieve rate increases for Utah’s contracted providers so they could stabilize business and keep up with current market demands. Utah private providers have five-year contracts, with rates set for the duration of the contract unless additional support is given through a legislative increase. The contracted rates were low at the time they were signed, but given the high inflation rates of the last two years, providers were barely able to meet the growing demands of labor compensation, daily supplies, insurance premiums, and general business costs. When contracts are tied to low rates, it makes it almost impossible to maintain fidelity to programming and to deliver favorable outcomes for the youth. Providers needed a rate increase, and there was no denying it. When that rate increase was not included in the Governor’s budget, the YPA Legislative team, consisting of YPA Executive Committee members and Travis Wood (of Travis Wood & Associates, LLC), created a legislative agenda and pursued additional funding on their own.

Partnering with Representative Dunnigan

Other representatives heard the plea of private providers, and although supportive of the cause, were not willing to step in and assist with the heavy load of getting this in front of committee for consideration and prioritizing it against other requests. However, one leader stepped forward and took a chance on private providers. On January 31, YPA Executive Director Mariah Hurst was introduced to the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Committee by Representative Jim Dunnigan. With only four minutes to convince the legislative body that this $1.5M request in ongoing funding needed to be prioritized, Rep. Dunnigan and Mrs. Hurst sat together and laid the facts before the committee.

Although the committee was receptive and generally supportive of providers, there were many requests for appropriations, and only a limited amount of funding to back up that support. Ongoing funding is even more difficult to secure than one-time funding, and the fight to keep this alive was an uphill battle. However, Rep. Dunnigan showed up every step of the way as discussions continued on camera and behind the scenes, expressing the importance of this increase for the provider system. Because of a well documented need and Rep. Dunnigan’s support, the rate increase for private providers landed this request as #13 on the prioritization list. This list was turned over to the Executive Appropriations Committee and because of it’s placement there, was fully funded about a month later. Private providers will see the increase in their daily rates at the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1, 2023.

What the Increase Means for Providers

The rate increase of $1.5M is about an 8.2% increase in daily rates for contracted providers. This increase means that providers will be able to hire and maintain quality staff, maintain fidelity to their programs, invest in quality, evidence-based practices, and make their programs viable for the future youth who need them. This rate increase is life-giving to the struggling, yet essential provider system, and none of it would have been possible without the support of Representative Jim Dunnigan. Because of this, the Youth Providers Association presented him with the 2023 Legislative of the Year Award and held a luncheon held in his honor in early May. He deserves every praise for his undaunting leadership and unwavering support of youth service providers.

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