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AM News Brief: Utah Doctors And Cannabis, Domestic Violence Bill & Healthcare Bridge For Inmates

Photo of the Wasatch mountains covered in snow.
Brian Albers

Thursday morning, Jan. 30, 2020

Northern Utah

Reflecting On #MeToo At Sundance

The rape trial of film mogul Harvey Weinstein has the media world once again reflecting on the culture of abuse. That’s especially true at the Sundance Film Festival, where some of his alleged crimes occurred. But according to two veteran producers, the festival has not only seen cultural changes in recent years — like fewer hotel room meetings and an increased awareness around safety — it’s also been a place where important conversations are launched. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Two Years Of Sanctuary

Thursday marks two years since Honduran mother Vicky Chavez took sanctuary in a Salt Lake City church. She was facing deportation in January 2018 but feared her life and her daughters lives would be in danger if they returned to her native Honduras. Chavez is still hoping to be able to stay legally in the country and live a normal life with her children. Read the full story. — Rocio Hernandez


Herbert’s Last State Of The State

After more than a decade at Utah’s helm, Herbert used his final state of the state speech to highlight successes: record unemployment, a growing middle class and improved test scores for Utah students. “The state of our state is … well, we’re just the best,” he said. Legislative Democrats released a response video, where they highlighted their efforts on issues dealing with working families and the environment. Read the full story. — Nicole Nixon

Increasing Domestic Violence Charges

Legislators are considering a bill to increase criminal charges involving domestic violence when a child is present. Democratic Sen. Jani Iwamoto of Holladay introduced the bill. It would amend current law by moving domestic violence trials from justice courts to district courts. Iwamoto told lawmakers on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee the legislation would also help protect at-risk children. She also said that domestic violence is the leading cause of homicide in the state. Lawmakers did not take up a vote on bill as they raised concerns that public defenders would not prioritize these cases in district court. — Jessica Lowell

Bridging Inmate Healthcare

New legislation proposed Wednesday would would make inmates with drug addiction eligible for Medicaid 30 days before their release. H.B. 38 was introduced by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, and requires the state Department of Health to apply for a fee waiver from the federal government. He said the goal is to create a bridge for inmates who need treatment before they’re released. And there will be no cost to the state to apply for the waiver. — Grace Osusky

Department of Health Staff Changes

The Utah Department of Health has shuffled its communications team two weeks after an HIV awareness campaign prompted the governor to pull the ads and condoms packaged with messages that some perceived as risque. Gov. Gary Herbert said there would be no firings at the department. Former communications director Tom Hudachko now oversees Medicaid messaging. Charla Haley takes over as Director of the Office of Public Information and Marketing. She issued a statement about the rearrangement, and says no further comments will be made about the changes. — Diane Maggipinto

Medical Marijuana Rollout

Utah's medical marijuana program is expected to launch on schedule in a few weeks, though it's likely to start small. Health officials said one or two dispensaries will open in early March, when people can begin getting patient cards that will allow them to legally buy the drug in the state. They will need a doctor's recommendation to get a card, which may be a challenge because just a few medical providers have shown interest in getting certified to recommend the drug. — Associated Press

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