Several years ago I publicly shared the story of one my sons who had suicidal thoughts, and our efforts to get him help. Since this time I have heard stories from many residents who have struggled to find resources to help loved ones through their own mental health challenges. Hearing these stories reminds me of how my heart ached as I tried to figure out what to do for my son. I was dumbfounded that as a member of the Salt Lake County Council I didn’t know who to call.
Salt Lake County has helped fund the local crisis line, but we realized most people didn’t know that resource existed, nor did they have the phone number memorized. That’s why I was so excited when we launched a three-digit crisis line that would be easier to remember. Last month the number 9-8-8, a suicide prevention and mental health crisis line number, was rolled out nationwide.
What is the difference between 988 and 911? The 988 number serves as a suicide prevention and mental health crisis lifeline and is an access point to crisis resources such as Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT). It is staffed by professionals and is confidential, free, and available 24/7.
The 911 number still serves as the emergency dispatch for public safety emergencies, medical emergencies, and law enforcement. If the public safety emergency is pertaining to someone who has a mental health condition, or appears to be experiencing a mental health crisis, a crisis intervention team (CIT) trained officer with basic training in mental health crises can be requested through 911 dispatch. It is also free and available 24/7.
The Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT) are a critical resource to take the load off police officers to help solve mental health crises. These teams are made up of highly trained licensed mental health clinicians and certified peer support specialists. If someone has a mental health crisis, these teams can be dispatched to a home, school, or wherever needed. Their experts arrive in unmarked vehicles to support your privacy and can work with the person experiencing the crisis and help them find a resolution that doesn’t involve self-harm.
Right now we only have about half the number of MCOT teams necessary to help the public. I am on the State’s Behavioral Health Crisis Response Commission and I am pushing for additional state funding, as well as county funding, to fully operate these MCOT teams. I believe investment in MCOT teams is critical. We’ve already seen these teams in action in Salt Lake County saving lives, and I’m hopeful we will see increased access to this resource in the coming months.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It’s important that we all know the resources available to help us or our loved ones. My heart aches for those of you who, like me, have had family or friends struggle with mental illness. It is so difficult and frustrating because it’s such a hard problem to solve. Hang in there, my friends. There are brighter days ahead and I know together we can break the stigma, advocate for additional resources, and become a safe place for others to go to for help.
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Aimee Winder Newton
Aimee Winder Newton has served since 2014 and represents Taylorsville, Murray, West Jordan, and West Valley City on the Salt Lake County Council. She was a former 2020 Republican candidate for Utah Governor and was the first woman elected as chair of the Council. Aimee works tirelessly to defend the quality of life in Salt Lake County while protecting tax dollars... [read more]
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aimee winder newton: County Council district 3