SL County Gov says outreach program to help mental health patients, not police

Posted at 6:47 PM, Mar 13, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-13 20:52:48-04

Thousands of Utahns are affected by mental disorders but only a fraction gets the services they need. Salt Lake County unveiled a outreach program Tuesday to help meet that need for mental health treatment.

“So what we have been doing is not good enough,” says Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon. “Unfortunately our jails have become our largest mental health institutions.”

Corroon says the new mental health outreach program will involve three mobile crisis teams to respond to people who struggle with mental health issues. The new program will be an alternative to calling police and will be tailored specifically to those with mental health issues.

“Obviously all of these teams will be cross trained so they can handle any crisis, regardless of age, regardless of what the situation is,” said Executive Director for the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute Ross VanVranken.

The mobile teams are part of a collaboration between the county, the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute and Optum Health.

Corroon says the response teams will help the county save money by bringing immediate treatment to those in need, avoiding hospitalization and police intervention.

A big part of the new program will be certified peer specialists – people who have personally dealt with major mental issues and are now successfully managing their own recovery and who can relate to what people in a crisis are going through.

The program is a first of its kind for the county.

The outreach program will officially start on Thursday.