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South Jordan Journal

Salt Lake County Council approves funding for a temporary mental health receiving center

A temporary mental health receiving center, at the existing Huntsman Mental Health Institute, will allow law enforcement officers to bring people experiencing a mental health crisis to a safe place to receive professional help. (Photo courtesy of Huntsman Mental Health Institute)

With a $2.5 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Salt Lake County Council approved funding for a temporary mental health receiving center at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (501 Chipeta Way).

As an alternative to jail or the emergency room, the temporary center will accept residents going through a mental health crisis, brought in by law enforcement. The center will focus on getting people the professional help they need. 

“The current option is to take those who are experiencing a crisis to jail or an emergency room, which is costly, can take more of an officer’s time, and may not give those in crisis the long-term help they need,” said Ross Van Vranken, executive director of the HMHI. “We applaud the council and mayor’s foresight and commitment to mental health resources.”

Funds from the council will cover the cost of retrofitting and expanding an existing space at the HMHI. It will also cover 17 months of staffing to allow operations beginning in April 2023 until the construction of the Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center is finished in fall 2024. 

The new center is being built in South Salt Lake and will be a place where people can go to stabilize and connect with vital mental health resources. The temporary location at HMHI will address those needs until the center opens. It will help alleviate the Salt Lake County Jail which houses a large population of people needing mental health services. 

“The county is designated as the mental health authority by the state, and we operate the jail, so this is a good fit,” said Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton. “This investment will not only improve mental health outcomes but will save taxpayer dollars in the long run.”

As was proposed in Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson’s budget, the council will also approve an additional $1 million toward the construction of the Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center.

“The $1 million donation was included in my proposed budget to go towards the construction of the permanent space,” Wilson said. “We are committed to getting this finished and appreciate all those who have partnered on this project.”

The $3.5 million commitment from the county is part of a public-private collaboration with the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, which has committed $3.5 million to the construction of Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Integrated Healing and Innovation Center, helping those in crisis. The integrated center will provide legal support services, case management, medical and dental support, and mental wellness counseling. 

“In the time I’ve been on the council, I’ve never seen eight council members co-sponsor an agenda item,” said Salt Lake County Council Chair Laurie Stringham. “This shows the commitment of the Council to support mental health resources for our residents.”