ST. GEORGE —  Gov. Spencer J. Cox announced Monday a historic agreement with local governments to respond to homeless services throughout the state, supported by recommendations in his fiscal year 25 proposed budget.

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during One Utah Summit, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 3, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

According to the governor’s website, budget recommendations include transformational investments to support a comprehensive statewide approach to alleviate homelessness. The announcement at the Atherton Community Correctional Center came one day before Cox and Lt. Gov. Henderson release their full FY25 budget recommendations.

Alleviating homelessness requires a holistic approach that addresses both short-term needs and incorporates long-term strategies, the website said. The three areas of focus for the Cox-Henderson administration are stabilizing emergency shelters, expanding behavioral health care, and prioritizing prevention.

“After months of analyzing our collective response to homeless services, we’re doing many things well, but we’ve also found gaps in the system. Our budget priorities will address these gaps,” Cox said. “I’m grateful for the collaboration between state and local officials as well as civic leaders to join together and find solutions that will improve the lives of our unsheltered individuals and families.”

Cox has recommended $128 million to stabilize the current emergency shelter system and provide support for additional shelter options. Statistics show there aren’t enough beds in the current emergency shelter system.

Students and leaders share their mental health journey at the Breaking the Stigma seminar series in St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Tiffany Wilson, St. George News

Investments in homeless prevention and resources to better connect individuals with mental health and substance use disorders to treatment and wrap-around services were also recommended. Included in the recommendations was a $10 million one-time investment and $641,000 ongoing to launch a HOME Court – an alternative to the criminal justice system that diverts people to treatment services.

To address gaps in Utah’s behavioral health workforce, Cox recommended $8 million, which will provide opportunities for paid internships, loan forgiveness and incentives to training in the behavioral health field, an additional rural receiving center and two additional mobile crisis teams, increases to behavioral health licensing opportunities, and staff for the Atherton Community Treatment Center.

The governor’s budget recommendations will be released at a press conference on Tuesday and can be found at after the release.