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South Salt Lake Journal

Mental Health Crisis Care Center to be built in South Salt Lake

Nov 08, 2021 03:24PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Mayor Cherie Wood listens as Dr. Michael Good, U of U interim president, speaks at the groundbreaking for the HMHI Mental Health Crisis Care Center. (Courtesy of the HMHI)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Between the Salt Lake County Jail and Men’s Homeless Resource Center, the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) and University of Utah Health broke ground for the first building of the Campus of Hope on 3300 South.

“The HMHI Campus of Hope will be a multiphase, satellite expansion of HMHI on a 9-acre lot at 3300 South and 1000 West,” according to the Mental Health Crisis Care Center website.

The location was chosen because it is in the central part of the valley and is reachable via public transportation.

“We are in the very early stages of developing the campus. We are gathering input from the community and are working with architects, consultants, and various stakeholders to create some concepts,” Dr. James Ashworth, executive vice-chair of HMHI, said.

One part is known. A Mental Health Crisis Care Center will be the first building built.

Mental Health Crisis Care Center

“The new Mental Health Crisis Care Center represents the commitment of the state of Utah, Salt Lake County, South Salt Lake, the University of Utah, and the donor community all working together for individuals facing a mental health crisis,” said Dr. Michael Good, the interim president of the University of Utah and CEO, U of U Health. “Together, we will develop a center where people experiencing a psychiatric emergency will be treated efficiently and with dignity.”

Charles Ellis, who has lived with bipolar disorder for more than 15 years, shared his story at the groundbreaking. In 2019, he was in a crisis and a friend called the police for help. Before they knew what happened, Ellis was surrounded “by officers with guns and tasers pointed at me.”

Ellis was handcuffed and taken to the hospital by ambulance. Medical staff determined he was not a threat to himself or others. Nevertheless, he left the hospital in the middle of the night with new significant medical expenses. “I was angry and frustrated.”

Ellis’s story is not uncommon. Unfortunately, the options are limited in Salt Lake Valley. The purpose of the Mental Health Crisis Care Center will provide a place for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis or substance use crisis.

“Individuals can walk in with a self-defined crisis, be referred by a provider in the community, or be transferred by police, fire, or emergency medical services,” according to the Center’s press release.

“This is going to be a welcoming place for any individual facing a mental health crisis. Like the current receiving center at Huntsman Mental Health Institute in Research Park, it will serve everyone,” Ashworth said. “There will be a main entrance with a walk-in center for individuals and families to come and a separate entrance for emergency services/law enforcement to bring individuals. In addition to the short-term stabilization center (receiving center), there will also be in-patient hospital rooms and multiple community resources to connect individuals to ongoing care.”

The Mental Health Crisis Care Center will provide a compassionate evaluation of patients and families in psychiatric distress. The center will have the ability to intensively treat and stabilize 30 patients in a 23-hour stabilization center. The center will also have a 24-bed in-patient facility with individual rooms. Personalized care management and individual recovery plans will guide the process.

“To have a facility of this size with so few barriers to entry meets a need in our community that has gone unmet for too long,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “Too many people with mental illness have spent unnecessary time in jails or emergency rooms. The crisis care center will be a safe space where people will receive proper mental health care and treatment.”

A multi-disciplinary professional staff, including licensed psychiatrists, advanced practice nurses, social workers, certified peer specialists, and psychiatric technicians, will work with individuals at the crisis center. In addition, since the crisis center is affiliated with the University of Utah School of Medicine, it will also be a place for teaching, learning, and research to improve and transform mental health crisis care.

“The opening of the Mental Health Crisis Care Center allows us to continuously study, evolve, and improve crisis services,” said Mark Rapaport, M.D., CEO, Huntsman Mental Health Institute and chair, Department of Psychiatry. “This critical community resource will unify services for people and their families and be a space for healing. Its unique design will be a model for the future of mental health crisis care and an example for other communities to emulate.” 

The Crisis Center will open in late 2023 or early 2024.


The HMHI supplies a variety of services. 

The HMHI Receiving Center is in Research Park, south of the university. It is a short-term (up to 23 hours) secure center. While at the center, individuals will receive crisis management therapy, a psychiatric assessment, medication, and wellness recovery/discharge planning.

The HMHI operates the Utah Crisis Line. The Utah Crisis Line, in association with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, provides compassionate support during challenging times for anyone. Callers of any age with any mental health issue are encouraged to call. The number is 801-587-3000 or 1-800-273-8255.

The Utah Crisis Line sends out a mobile crisis outreach team (MCOT). MCOT services are fast, free either face to face or virtual. Youth and adult MCOT teams are available 24/7/365 to offer consultation and support to individuals, families, schools, treatment providers, and first responders.

HMHI also runs the Utah Warm Line. The difference between the Warm Line and Crisis Line is that the Warm Line is a listening ear for individuals who need someone to talk to. Specialized trained peer support individuals staff the Warm Line and are available 8 a.m. -11 p.m. seven days a week, 365 a year at no cost. The number is 801-587-1055 or 833-SPEAKUT.

A final service is the SafeUT Crisis Chat and Tip Line. This Utah services supplies real-time emotional support and crisis prevention 24/7/365 to students, parents and educators. Individuals can send a confidential tip from their smartphone or call 833-372-3388.

“Our family is very proud to be part of this partnership that is creating a no-wrong-door approach to treating and caring for people experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Jennifer Huntsman Parkin. “Everyone deserves proper mental health treatment and recovery services, just like any other medical illness.”