Like many parts of the nation, Utah is seeing mental health effects from the COVID-19 public health emergency, while also struggling with opioid misuse. However, Utah is bucking national trends in other ways. Check out some of the behavioral health news stories making headlines in Utah.
Federal Grant to Southern Utah University Could Help Rural Opioid Addiction
Southern Utah University (SUU) has received $1 million from the federal Health Resources and Service Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help fight opioid addiction among rural Utahns. SUU will use the funding for a pilot telemedicine program to address opioid medication addiction in Garfield, Kane, Piute, and Wayne counties.
Health facilities in the state will refer a total of 18 patients to the pilot program. The program will provide substance abuse, mental health, and nutritional counseling. A group of private and public companies will collaborate with SUU to offer these services.
Utah Suicides Decline, Crisis Calls Rise
Contrary to national trends, Utah has seen a lower suicide rate during the COVID-19 public health emergency. At the same time, the Utah Department of Health reports that calls to the Utah Crisis Line have increased. May 2020 saw a 1.6 percent increase in call volume compared to May 2019. Currently about one in four Utahns is experiencing symptoms of depression.
Utah Jail Diversion Programs Win State Recognition
Davis County, Utah, has received praise for a diversion program aimed at sending offenders to substance abuse or mental health treatment instead of jail. Under this program, police in Davis County can take nonviolent arrestees with behavioral health problems to the Behavioral Health Receiving Center instead of automatically booking them into jail. At the center, arrestees are placed under observation and then referred to treatment programs. If the arrestee chooses not to seek treatment, the officer can return to make an arrest.
This program, launched in December 2019, is meant in part to help alleviate burdens on the county jail. According to Brandon Hatch, CEO of Davis Behavioral Health, which runs the program, 78 percent of the program’s more than 300 clients have been involved in treatment.
Opioid-Related Overdoses May Be Increasing in Parts of Utah
Starting in early August 2020, law enforcement officials in Salt Lake City began to notice a potent type of heroin laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The drug has been dubbed “hulk” for its green color. This drug has been linked to a series of powerful overdoses that required multiple doses of naloxone, or even a naloxone IV drip at the hospital, to reverse them.
Utah Naloxone reported 175 overdose reversals in August 2020, up from 125 in July and 99 in June. The exact number of overdoses may be higher than what has been reported. Some experts suggest that the increase of overdoses is due to social isolation stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as restrictions that have disrupted the usual drug supply chains.
Utah behavioral health providers have been addressing a variety of mental health and substance misuse issues, all while moving services online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The right EHR solution can help you streamline your practice, serve client needs, and stay profitable in uncertain times. Contact the BestNotes EHR team to schedule a free demo and find out how our customized, telehealth-friendly behavioral health solutions can help.