The worldwide pandemic and resulting quarantine has highlighted many of the areas in society where we can improve. Since mid-March, calls to domestic violence hotlines, the suicide hotline, and substance abuse hotlines have increased. Now more than ever we need access to good behavioral health services.
Oftentimes we see law enforcement on the front lines of these battles. When an officer picks up someone who is in need of behavioral health services, they take them to the emergency room or the jail. Neither one is the best place for someone to get long-term mental health care or substance abuse help, and they are both expensive options.
Salt Lake County has been on the leading edge of this work. As we’ve explored best practices in other states, we recognize that a receiving center dedicated to behavioral health is the least expensive and gives the best outcomes for our residents. Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Arizona as a member of the state’s mental health crisis commission. We toured their receiving center and saw their comprehensive crisis services. Our commission and Salt Lake County supported a legislative appropriation to fund a receiving center pilot project in areas throughout the state. It passed! Salt Lake County stepped up to also partner with resources, and we are hoping to move forward with a receiving center in the near future, as long as the funds remain after the upcoming legislative budget cuts. (So tell your legislator to keep HB 32 funded!)
In Salt Lake County we already have an incredible crisis line to take calls and texts 24/7, that number is 801-587-3000. We also pay to dispatch a Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT) to those who are in crisis, recognizing law enforcement can’t be expected to be all things to all people. But we have a gap in treatment services. A receiving center will offer medical and psychiatric triage, clinical assessment, peer support, discharge planning, connection to community resources, and referral services to treatment programs including in-patient care, medical care, and detox. Having a receiving center is a more cost-effective way to treat patients and takes the pressure off of emergency rooms and jails - which are currently the only options. It will create savings across the county in hospitals, law enforcement agencies, the county jail, and the court system. It will also save the state money as receiving center Medicaid bills will be less expensive than an emergency room visit.
Behavioral health is a top priority and I’m hopeful we will see some meaningful improvements to the existing system which will give real help to those suffering, save tax dollars in the long run, and lighten the burden in jails, emergency rooms, and with law enforcement.
Aimee Winder Newton has been serving on the Salt Lake County Council since January 2014. She is the current chair of the council. Her district encompasses Murray, Taylorsville, West Valley City and West Jordan, and a small portion of South Salt Lake and Millcreek... [read more]
|Aimee Winder Newton||
aimee winder newton: County Council district 3