Each U.S. state is facing unique challenges in behavioral health, from substance abuse to the mental health effects of the pandemic response. Here’s a look at a few of the biggest behavioral health and addiction concerns in Utah, and how the state’s healthcare leaders are addressing them.
Expanding Mental Health Services in Rural Utah
The Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI), part of University of Utah Health Hospitals & Clinics, is planning to increase access to mental health care services in rural communities throughout the state. To help fulfill its goals, HMHI has received $1 million from Oregon-based Cambia Health Solutions.
Mental Health America’s 2021 report (download the PDF here) found that Utah ranks last in the United States for adult mental healthcare access. Part of this is due to provider shortages, which particularly affects rural areas. HMHI plans to place psychiatry residents and fellows in rural communities, offer school-based psychiatric consultation, and partner with the university’s Department of Educational Psychology to provide mental health support and training in several community schools.
Addressing Suicide Rates in Utah
Utah lawmakers have passed several bills in an effort to address the state’s rising suicide rates. These include bills to:
Increase access to telehealth services, including raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for mental healthcare
Make nearly $16 million available to hire staff to implement 988 as a new phone line for mental health emergencies
Allow people who are experiencing a mental-health crisis to add their name to a “no-gun” registry and prevent firearm purchase for at least 30 days
Forbid police from shooting at people who are suicidal and a risk to only themselves
Provide about $1.6 million to educate care providers about mental health support for young children and fund family stabilization services
Utah to Receive Federal Behavioral Health Funding
Utah will receive almost $7.5 million for mental health services and $15.5 million for addiction treatment from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The agency is providing a total of $2.5 billion in block grants for states to address mental illness and drug addiction.
These block grant programs allow states to determine where they most need the money and how to address behavioral health issues, such as treating serious mental health conditions and preventing substance use disorder.
Utah Medical Clinic Now Offering On-Site Harm Reduction Services
The Odyssey House’s Martindale Clinic in Salt Lake City has become the first primary care clinic in the state to offer harm reduction services on its premises in addition to medical care. The clinic offers several different services related to substance misuse, including syringe exchange, prescriptions for medication-assisted treatment, and fentanyl test strips.
Such practices keep patients “coming back so that you can keep revisiting those notions of using drugs, less frequently, more safely, and not at all,” says Dr. Paula Cook, Chief Medical Officer for Odyssey House.
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