SALT LAKE CITY — A total of 214 people who were clients or former clients of the Utah Department of Human Services died in fiscal year 2014, according to the state's latest Fatality Review report.
Cheryl Dalley, fatality review coordinator for the Utah Department of Human Services, told a panel of state lawmakers Thursday that the department deals with "the most fragile and vulnerable section of the population," among them abused and neglected children, frail seniors, people with disabilities and people with severe mental health or substance abuse issues.
According to a summary of the annual report, there were 23 more reported deaths in FY2014 than the previous year. Dalley said the increase was attributed to better reporting by the state Division of Aging and Adult Services as well as the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
The report includes fatalities of people with open cases with various divisions of the Department of Human Services and those who had received services within 12 months of their deaths. In previous years, the department reported serving more than 56,000 people a year. The FY2014 total was not immediately available.
Seventy-three of the deaths were clients or former clients of the state division of aging, 37 of the deaths involved clients of the Division of Child and Family Services, and 51 were behavioral health clients. Thirty two of the deaths were clients or former clients of the Division of Services for People with Disabilities.
In the case of children receiving DCFS services, six children died "as the direct result of abuse or neglect by their parents, caretakers or family members," the report states. Two of the deaths of DCFS clients were suicides.
"None of the fatalities were the direct result of services they received or their families received at the time of their deaths," Dalley told members of the legislative Child Welfare Oversight Committee.
There were 29 deaths among DCFS former or current clients in FY2013, but the case reviews did not suggest any trends for the increase, Dalley said.
Among the 35 deaths of children, more than half were under the age of 7. Most of the deaths —16 — occurred in infants 1 year old or younger. "Sixty-five percent of the deaths were between birth and 3 years old," Dalley said.
Thirty-two of the reported deaths statewide were clients or former clients of the Division of Services for People with Disabilities. "One individual receiving services through DSPD died as a result of complications of non-accidental head trauma inflicted by a parent when the individual was a child," a summary of the report said.
According to fatality review report summary (under Utah law, the full report is not released to the public), 171 of the deaths were attributed to natural causes. Sixteen were ruled accidents, three were pending and 11 could not be determined.
Homicide was the manner of death for six of the deaths, seven were suicides and 16 were accidents, according to the state medical examiner.
"The Fatality Review Committees become involved at the most extreme and, at least in the case of children, the least undesirable outcome of their cases, that is death," Dalley said.