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‘We need to do better by you’: Huntsman family commits $150 million to establish Mental Health Institute

Posted at 10:03 AM, Nov 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-04 13:48:29-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Huntsman family is committing $150 million to establish an institute devoted to understanding and treating mental illness.

The University of Utah announced the $150 million commitment from the Huntsman family Monday, and the funds will establish the new Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the U.

“All families are impacted by the effects of mental illness," Karen Huntsman stated in a press release. "This is the first step in positioning Utah as a national leader in identifying, caring for and seeking new treatments for families facing the difficult challenges that come with mental health. Our family invites the community to join us in supporting this important work.”

The gift supports the U of U's existing full-service psychiatric hospital: The University Neuropsychiatric Institute, which will be renamed as the Huntsman Mental Health Institute in recognition of the gift.

The University and family will work to raise additional funds to support the institute. The gift will support the existing hospital, as well as mental health screenings for the more than 30,000 students at U of U and others in rural parts of the state.

The gift will also support research aimed at identifying risks and other factors that cause or contribute to mental illness.

Huntsman Foundation CEO Peter R. Huntsman said it is past time to change stigmas and misconceptions surrounding mental illness.

“We need to do better by you, and particularly, that third group that’s most important—who all too often live in silence because they are afraid that somebody is going to find out that they have something they never bargained for, something they never asked for; who suffer all too often in silence," he said.

University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said the Huntsman family has once again stepped up to lead the way.

“We share a dedication to addressing the mental health needs of our campus and the greater community," Watkins said. "We are grateful to Karen and her remarkable family for this transformational gift. Together, we will work to increase positive outcomes, destigmatize the perception of mental illness and enhance the quality of life for families across Utah.”

A new Department of Psychiatry Chair will be recruited to serve as CEO of the institute.

The Huntsman family funds multiple programs at the university, including the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Established in 1995 with a $100 million donation, HCI now includes a state-of-the-art cancer hospital and research facilities.

“This commitment in no way diminishes our ongoing financial support to continue to build and promote the Huntsman Cancer Institute,” Peter Huntsman said.