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Improving Mental Health and Reducing Suicide

During community conversations and surveys, mental health was the most prioritized theme among all constituents. Yet Utah still has shortages of mental health providers in every county and fewer mental health providers per 100,000 people than the national average.

Several other issues create and exacerbate behavioral health challenges. These include a lack of system-level coordination, siloed approaches to addressing behavioral health needs, administrative complexities, ongoing workforce shortages, and a lack of sustainable funding.

Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the University of Utah aims to solve those problems, advancing knowledge and relieving suffering through research-informed treatment of mental illness. Other areas of focus include improving mental health services for youth and college-age adults, increasing access to mental health services in rural communities, and identifying the genetic underpinnings of mental illness.

Institutional Initiatives

Between 2021 and 2023, we have made steady progress on CHNA goals related to increasing screenings and improving treatment coordination. 

  1. Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) has expanded integrated care into 32 specialty clinics 
  2. Patient outcomes have improved in more than 10 community clinics 
  3. Collaborative care was successfully launched in primary care, with nearly 200 unique patients enrolled 
  4. More than 25% of those enrolled in the program have seen a 50% or greater reduction in depression scores 
  5. Primary care clinics have hired social workers to assist with improved coordination of care for behavioral health referrals

Other system initiatives that address behavioral health are linked below. 

Love, Your Mind Campaign

Supported by a founding investment from HMHI and part of the Ad Council’s Mental Health Initiative, this initiative offers inspiration and educational resources that encourage people across the U.S. to proactively share open conversations about mental health. 

Explore the Campaign

Mental Health Crisis Care Center

Opening in 2025, the visionary Kem and Carolyn Garnder Crisis Care Center will unify community services to provide urgent care for mental health emergencies and help individuals de-escalate, stabilize, and connect to community resources catered to their individual needs. 

Explore the Center

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

988—a confidential, no-cost crisis line that's available 24/7/365—directs callers experiencing mental health, substance use, or suicidal crises to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the integrated Utah Crisis Line, which is staffed by certified crisis counselors at HMHI. 

Learn More About 988

News & Updates

Sesame Workshop and the Ad Council Launch New PSA

Elmo and friends stand up for Mental Health Awareness Month by demonstrating how to support people’s emotional well-being in a new video released alongside a robust offering of Sesame Workshop resources for families.

Explore the Messages

How to Find Help For Your Mental Health

Millions of people are affected by mental illness each year. If you or someone you love is struggling with persistent issues, you are not alone. Here's how to find a qualified mental health provider.

Get the Care You Deserve

Mental Health for a More Inclusive Society

As a distinguished scholar and pioneer in his field, William A. Smith, PhD, Chief Executive Administrator for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at HMHI, shines a light on the effects of discrimination for people of color in the U.S.

Dig Into the Research

Strategies to Meet CHNA Requirements

Below are specific strategies and initiatives related to improving mental health and reducing suicide that University of Utah Health commits to as part of the Community Health Needs Assessment process and will work towards over the next three years.

Increase screenings, referrals, and treatment coordination between mental health and primary care providers

Implement Collaborative Care for patients with major depressive disorders in order to improve health outcomes, with a goal to see a 50% improvement in PHQ-9/PROMIS depression scores

  • Improve screenings for suicide risk and increase access to effective behavioral health treatment by implementing the Zero Suicide programming of the Columbia Suicide Severity Screening (C-SSRS) in primary care settings
  • Integrate substance abuse screening, brief intervention, and referral and treatment (SBIRT) practices into primary care settings
  • Increasing access to and use of the SafeUT app and of school-based mental health (with referral supports)
  • Improve transitions of care from inpatient Psychiatry to Primary Care and from Community Crisis Encounters to Primary Care
  • Expand Call-Up, the Psychiatrist Consultation Program that provides primary care providers with access to telehealth psychiatric consultations (peer-to-peer consulting)

Improve access to mental health services

  • Extend 24/7 mobile crisis outreach teams (MCOT) across the entire state – UNI provides dispatch services to all MCOT teams
  • Enhance the statewide crisis call center to serve as the centralized hub for coordinating behavioral health and crisis support services
  • Create the Salt Lake County community-based behavioral health receiving center