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Safe UT app helps keep our schools, kids safe

SALT LAKE CITY – “See something. Say something.” It’s easier said than done, but there’s an app for that. The Safe Utah app connects students, teachers, parents and other users directly with licensed counselors, and there is always someone ready to respond.

It was designed with Utah’s youth in mind. They communicate with technology, and the app allows them to chat with trained professionals.

“They’re all licensed mental health workers. They’re master’s level clinicians. And we’re staffed 24-7. So we make sure no text goes unanswered,” said Tory Yeates, Crisis Service Supervisor.

Real people answer at the 24-7 Crisis Line Center at the Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute on the University of Utah campus. Their goal: respond within two minutes.

The app allows users to text, call or submit tips anonymously.

Since it was launched in 2016, more than 19,000 Utah students have used it to report everything from school threats to bullying to drug use and even suicide prevention.

“A lot of them are just reaching out for someone to talk to or listen to them,” said Yeates.

The crisis clinicians aren’t the only ones ready to respond. Tips also go straight to schools.

“Because it is 24-7, there have been a multitude of times where as principal, I’m taking phone calls on a Sunday evening, a Saturday night, all hours of the day and getting a report,” said Brian McGill, principal at Alta High School.

Eighty-six times a school threat has been foiled thanks to a tip sent in on the Safe Utah app.

McGill said the app gives students a safe space to voice a concern, knowing someone will always respond.

“When we have reports of concern that happen to involve my students, I take the initiative as the principal to actually reach out and contact parents when we have cause for concern, and there have been other times where I haven’t been able to get a hold of parents, and I contact our school resource officer, and we have to do a welfare check at the house on behalf of the student we have concerns about,” said McGill.

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