A Place for Healing and Hope: Huntsman Mental Health Institute Breaks Ground on Mental Health Crisis Care Center

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021 – University of Utah and Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Mental Health Crisis Care Center on the future site of the HMHI Campus of Hope.

The new 24/7 facility will welcome people experiencing a mental health crisis and provide immediate, compassionate care at no cost to individuals.

“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 Michael Good, M.D., Interim President, 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.”

The Mental Health Crisis Care Center will be designed to provide comprehensive crisis care functions:

  • The compassionate evaluation of patients and families in psychiatric distress,
  • The capacity to intensively treat and stabilize 30 patients at a time in its 23-hour stabilization center,
  • A 24 bed in-patient facility where each patient will have an individual room, and
  • Personalized case management and individualized recovery plans for all patients receiving any level of care in the facility.

“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.”

Individuals at the Crisis Care Center will be seen and treated by a multi-disciplinary professional staff, including licensed psychiatrists, advanced practice nurses, social workers, certified peer specialists, and psychiatric technicians. 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.”

Options are currently limited for individuals experiencing mental health crises when they require immediate, specialized in-person care. Charlie Ellis, who has lived with bipolar disorder for more than 15 years, shared his story. “In 2019, I found myself in a crisis, and a friend called the police for help,” he said. “All of a sudden, I was surrounded by officers with guns and tasers pointed at me.”

Ellis was handcuffed and taken to the hospital by ambulance. Medical professionals quickly realized he was not a threat or harm to himself. Still, he left the hospital in the middle of the night with a hefty bill to cover ambulance and medical expenses. “I was angry and frustrated.”

Ellis’s situation is unfortunately not uncommon. The new Mental Health Crisis Care Center will now be the first option for anyone experiencing a mental health 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.

“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.”

The Mental Health Crisis Care Center will be located at 3300 South and 1000 West in South Salt Lake. Construction will begin in Fall 2021, and the center is proposed to open in late 2023.

“The Mental Health Crisis Care Center would have helped me have a much better outcome,” Ellis continued. “It will give people a lot of hope—there are options, and you don’t have to be punished for having a mental health crisis. Instead, you can be treated and cared for.”The Mental Health Crisis Care Center will be a critical part of Utah’s best-in-class integrated crisis intervention system along with the regional crisis call center (Utah Crisis Line and Warm Line), Mobile Crisis Response Teams, and SafeUT apps, all managed and operated by HMHI.