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Safe Schools: SafeUT app uniquely managed by social workers, mental health professionals

SALT LAKE CITY – Since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb 14, 2018, a spotlight has been focused on keeping schools safe. One resource gaining national attention is the SafeUT app, a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, master level licensed clinicians are busy being the voices behind SafeUT: taking phone calls, responding to students wanting to chat, sending potential safety threat tips to school officials. But it’s the live resource that sets SafeUT apart from others apps around the country.

“It’s the only one like it that we know of,” said Barry Rose, Crisis Service Manager for the University Neuropsychiatric Institute. “Most of the apps out there right now are simply for tips and they are typically managed by law enforcement. Our app is managed by social workers and mental health professionals.”

In the past month, the SafeUT app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times. The Crisis Line Center at UNI has also doubled its intake, from about 75 tips and chats per day to 130.

“For live chat, our number one problem people are talking to us about is suicidal thoughts, the second is bullying and cyberbullying,” Rose said.

In just the past few weeks,several states have reached out to UNI about SafeUT including Idaho, Illinois, Georgia, and Florida.

“I think other states are really interested because we have the dual functionality, and we can really talk to the students early on and maybe prevent it from reaching the point where something bad happens,” Rose said.

Since the SafeUT app launched in 2016, clinicians have been alerted to and helped stop nearly 90 planned school attacks in Utah, according to Rose. With tip averages up nearly 50 percent in just the past month, Rose and the UNI team continue to discuss how to expand into every school in the state.

“We’re still a new program and there are still a lot of people who don’t know about us yet,” Rose said. “We have a list of schools waiting for us to enroll, because it is a process.”

About 30 percent of schools in Utah don’t have the SafeUT program, mostly charters, private, and elementary schools.

“We do get tips and chats from 5th and 6th graders, it’s less volume from that age group but we do get some,” Rose added.

The University of Utah is the only higher education program enrolled in SafeUT at this time, but Rose said UNI plans to roll out the app to all higher education programs in the state.

If your school isn’t enrolled in SafeUT yet, Rose suggests contacting your school’s administration to find out if they’re in the process of implementing it.

“We have to have people to send tips to 24/7, so each school needs to decide who those people will be and it’s usually three to five people,” he said.

Rose points out that a school doesn’t have to be enrolled in the program for someone to download the app and use it. For teachers, he suggests logging in as a parent in order to send in information.

“They (teachers) could just put in their text through to the chat and we would receive that and act on it,” Rose explained.

Expanding the login options on the app is something UNI is looking into.

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