First-Of-Its-Kind Translational Research Building for Mental Health Receives Full Funding

University of Utah will break ground in early 2022

Yesterday, during a meeting of the Executive Appropriations Committee of the Utah State Legislature, lawmakers unanimously approved $90 million in funding for the Utah Translational Research Building at the University of Utah Huntsman Mental Health Institute.

“The Utah Translational Research Building is an incredible win for the people of Utah,” said Taylor Randall, Ph.D., President, University of Utah. “I thank the members of the Executive Appropriations Committee and the entire Utah State Legislature for continuing to prioritize mental health. This is an opportunity for us to provide the people of Utah with the best mental health care in the country and lead the nation in mental health research and treatment.”

The $90 million appropriated by the Utah State Legislature will be combined with $65 million in philanthropic dollars to create a public-private partnership. The funding was prioritized during a special session of the legislature in May as part of the $1.6 billion Utah accepted in COVID-19 relief funds. The Utah Translational Research Building will catapult Utah to the forefront of mental health research and care by creating a collaborative environment to solve mental health challenges, including the psychiatric and social factors created by COVID-19. Educators and researchers from universities and colleges across the state will use the facility and partner with HMHI on research, treatment, and training initiatives.

“This is a tremendous example of the power of the state and community partnership laying the foundation to transform mental health care for the people of Utah, said Mark Rapaport, M.D., CEO, Huntsman Mental Health Institute. “If we are going to tackle big problems like suicide, child mental health, and substance use, it will require bringing together teams of experts in basic science, translational science, law, technology, AI, and policy to solve these problems holistically. There is no other facility in the world that allows for this type of collaboration. We will now have the opportunity to do this in Utah.”

The Utah Translational Research Building will be used to carry out evidence-based research and improved mental health in the following areas:

  • Reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and the treatment of mental illness
  • Improve the mental health services available in rural parts of the state
  • Improve and expand children’s mental health, including reducing domestic violence and child abuse
  • Develop effective policy to prevent mental illness and substance use and effective treatments for mental illness and substance use
  • Expand efforts to prevent and reduce suicide
  • Improve understanding of mental health workforce needs

“Too many people in our state and across the country are suffering from poor mental health,” said David Huntsman, President, Huntsman Foundation. “We don’t need to see the statistics anymore because we see it every day in our own families, and we have too few answers. The Utah Translational Research Building is a huge step forward in finding solutions to the serious mental health challenges that impact all of us.”

The Utah Translational Research Building will also house a 7 Tesla MRI dedicated to brain research and innovative clinical interventions that will attract engineers, physicists, psychologists, and researchers from around the world.

The Utah Translational Research Building will be 185,000 square feet and include wet and dry lab space. It will be located behind the current Huntsman Mental Health Institute hospital in Research Park (formerly UNI). Construction will begin early 2022.

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

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.

Huntsman Mental Health Institute to Expand Mental Health Care in Rural Utah Communities

Increased access to these critical services supported by a $1 million donation from Cambia Health Solutions

Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) will increase access to critical mental health care services in rural communities throughout Utah with support from Cambia Health Solutions.

Cambia has committed $1 million to HMHI as part of its larger $11.5 million philanthropic donation to nonprofit organizations in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington; this funding will help meet urgent behavioral and mental health needs intensified by COVID-19.

“This is an important lead gift from Cambia that will assist with the development of comprehensive, sustainable mental health and substance abuse services across the state,” said Mark Rapaport, M.D., CEO, Huntsman Mental Health Institute, and chair of the Department of Psychiatry. “With these additional resources, we can focus on building innovative programs to address provider shortages and reach communities with high needs.”

According to Mental Health America’s 2021 report, Utah ranks last in the nation for adult mental health care access due to the lack of practitioners available to treat the population. Provider shortages affect people’s ability to access appropriate care, and Utah’s rural communities are significantly impacted.

Data from the Gardner Report on Utah’s Mental Health System show that Utah’s urban areas had 171 mental health full-time professionals per 100,000 in 2015. Rural areas, however, only had 141 mental health professionals per 100,000 people. The report suggests that Utah must more than double its mental health workforce over the next 15 years to keep up with population growth and move mental health provider ratios closer to the national average.

Cambia’s donation will allow HMHI to develop a rural communities’ needs assessment and create new solutions to serve as tests of change for workforce development. Based on the assessment findings, HMHI will place psychiatry residents and fellows in rural communities and provide school-based psychiatric consultation. HMHI will also partner with the U of U Department of Educational Psychology to support school staff and youth with mental health needs in ten schools. The grant will allow the Department to provide training, mental health screening, individual and group therapy, and consultation.

“We’re honored to support Huntsman Mental Health Institute as they tackle the growing need for mental and behavioral health services across our communities,” said Peggy Maguire, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility at Cambia Health Solutions. “We believe our investment will help break down the stigma surrounding mental health, improve access to behavioral support services, support people in emotional distress and positively impact the overall health and wellbeing of the Utah communities we proudly serve.”

About Cambia Health Solutions

Cambia Health Solutions, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is dedicated to transforming health care. We put people at the heart of everything we do as we work to make the health care system more economically sustainable and efficient for people and their families. Our company reaches millions of Americans nationwide, including more than 3.1 million people in the Pacific Northwest who are enrolled in our regional health plans. To learn more about us, visit or

HMHI and University of Utah Address Rising Mental Health Concerns Among Students

Today, the University of Utah and Huntsman Mental Health Institute launched the Mental Health First Responders program, a mental health crisis team dedicated to responding to mental health emergencies on campus. The highly trained team is made up of certified mental health clinicians and specialists with expertise in de-escalating situations and assessing students’ individual mental health needs. The program was launched due to the growing number of students living on campus needing mental health crisis support after hours.

“College students are prone to stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness,” said Lauren Weitzman, Ph.D., director of U of U’s Counseling Center. “The strain of living away from home for the first time, forming new friendships, and worrying about completing classwork can feel overwhelming. Supporting our students’ growing mental health needs is an ongoing priority—it is crucial to their learning and success in college and the productivity of our future workforce.”

According to a recent Counseling Center report, University of Utah students experience higher levels of depression, anxiety, and academic distress than their nationwide peers. Last year, there was a significant increase in the number of students seeking counseling services and a 32 percent increase in the number of counseling sessions provided. Students who report mental health struggles are nearly twice as likely to drop out of school than their peers.

In addition to providing after-hours crisis care, the program works to prevent mental health crises by providing long-term therapeutic services, group therapy, and emotional well-being workshops. The program develops personalized referrals and ongoing care based on the students’ individual needs. The goal is to eliminate the number of students going to the emergency room to receive mental health treatment, offer a safe and compassionate way to help those in crisis, and prevent violent and traumatic encounters. This year, the program is available to all students living on campus and will extend to off-campus enrolled students in the future.

The Mental Health First Responders program is a collaborative partnership between Huntsman Mental Health Institute, University of Utah Counseling Center, and University Housing and Residential Education. U of U students living on campus can access the Mental Health First Responders team by calling 385-321-5356. Students can also contact the University of Utah Counseling Center (for enrolled University of Utah students only) at 801-581-6826.For additional free and confidential crisis support, download the SafeUT Crisis Chat and Tip Line app or call the Utah Crisis Line at 801-587-3000.

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