HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

No Sirens, No Flashing Lights: ‘Mental Health Ambulances’ Available For Utahns In Distress

Sep 12, 2019, 7:38 PM | Updated: Sep 13, 2019, 9:53 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Knowing what to do in the middle of an immediate mental health crisis can be overwhelming. Many people immediately call 9-1-1, but that might not always be the best option. An underutilized service without flashing lights and sirens offers a less threatening approach for Utahns.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said he focuses much of his legislative work on suicide prevention. “I know somebody who was experiencing a mental health crisis and they called emergency services for help,” he said.

The woman called 9-1-1 and “they sent out a fire truck, ambulance and police car,” Eliason said. “The response to the neighborhood of all of these vehicles with flashing lights, for her, created more of a crisis than what she was actually calling first to seek help for.”

MCOT members show up in pairs made up of a licensed clinical social worker and a certified peer support specialist.

MCOT members show up in pairs made up of a licensed clinical social worker and a certified peer support specialist.

Eliason said there is a better, underutilized option available. It’s called MCOT — the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team. “It’s kind of like a mental health ambulance with a clinician and somebody who has experienced maybe something similar to what this person’s experiencing so they can relate with them,” he said.

But unlike traditional emergency service vehicles with EMS branding, flashing lights and sirens, MCOT units are unmarked vehicles and are designed to look like any other car on the road. They’re discreet and don’t draw unnecessary attention.

“The whole lights, sirens, that’s not necessary,” said Gina, who’s a certified social worker at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute. “Police can at times be intimidating, and sometimes it can lead to other unnecessary barriers to actually getting their mental health stuff figured out.”

When someone in Utah calls the National Suicide Hotline in distress, they’re connected to the University Neuropsychiatric Institute call center in Salt Lake.

“Sometimes we feel unsafe with ourselves, sometimes we don’t know what to do,” Gina said. “Sometimes our families don’t feel safe to be around us. We problem-solve with them. We make that quick, in person, ‘Hey, how are you? Today’s a bad day? Tell me about it.'”

If needed, a licensed clinical social worker and certified peer support specialist go in pairs directly to the patient in street clothes, rather than uniforms.

“We’re humans who know a lot about mental health,” Gina said. “We can support you through this because sometimes family can’t really support you. It’s too heavy. It’s too hard, but I think one thing that I found is, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. You don’t have to do this alone. You don’t have to walk this path alone. There’s someone out there.”

For most — it’s enough. “The vast majority of the individuals that receive services may have caught are able to be stabilized in their home avoiding a trip to the hospital,” Eliason said.

It also helps the patient avoid steep and unnecessary bills. “I mean, the average ambulance ride could be over $1,000,” Eliason said.

MCOT service is free and available 24/7, but if the patient needs further attention, officials will coordinate a trip to the hospital, day treatment services or other therapy.

“They’ll also follow up with them in the day subsequent to this person’s crisis, to see how they’re doing, and see if they’re in need of additional services,” Eliason said. “They work on short term coping strategies and long term recovery ideas, which the ultimate goal is to get people back on their feet, being happy again.”

If necessary, MCOT will work hand in hand with traditional EMS and law enforcement to protect someone in immediate harm or danger or others around them.

Unlike traditional emergency services, most peer support specialists have been on the other side of the service, like Kevin, who said his own experience helps him relate to his patients.

People in distress can call the National Suicide Hotline or chat with a licensed social worker online.

People in distress can call the National Suicide Hotline or chat with a licensed social worker online.

“I have the scars,” he said. “People pay attention to that because they know you lived through it, and you have a story to tell. Who better to handle that situation than somebody who’s been in it before? Or at least been through something like it?”

His experience gives his words of encouragement and hope extra meaning. “That’s one of the most important things is that as black as it gets, there’s still hope,” he said.

MCOT units currently dispatch in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Utah counties and the southwest region of Utah, including St. George and surrounding cities.

Eliason said he has plans to expand the program to more rural areas and to start tele-health MCOT services in the next legislative session.

“It’s important to know that MCOT’s are not just not a new idea that we’re trying in Utah,” he said. “This is a national best practice and states that have really developed their mental health crisis response system heavily use MCOT’s. It’s the wave of the future.”

The first MCOT started in Salt Lake in 2012 and at it’s busiest can send up to six teams throughout Salt Lake County.

Eliason said he hopes more people learn and use this free service.

____________________________

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the Utah Statewide CrisisLine in affiliation with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Or, you can directly call the Utah Statewide CrisisLine: 801-587-3000

Additional Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
  • University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300

Online Resources

  • NAMI Utah
  • Utah Chapter-American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • Safe UT Crisis Text and Tip Line

In an emergency

  • Call the police
  • Go to the emergency room
KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Healthy Mind Matters

Officer Casey Burton saved a man from a drug overdose in Liberty Park with Naloxone. (KSL TV)...
Jed Boal, KSL TV

‘He was super thankful’: Police officer saves man from overdose at Liberty Park

Liberty Park is a busy place as the weather warms. Tuesday an alert Salt Lake City Police Officer came across a man who was struggling to stand. The officer was in the right place to save a man from a drug overdose.
26 days ago
Rylin Adams...
Tamara Vaifanua, KSL TV

Elite Utah athlete talks about her struggles with mental health

Athletes are disciplined, strong-willed, and dedicated but they don’t always have it all together.
27 days ago
FILE: In this photo illustration, the TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 ...
Larry D. Curtis

TikTok and social media can distort mental health information for teens

Teens, just like adults can find themselves scrolling through video after social-media video. The billion — yes billion — users on TikTok are primarily teens and some mental health professionals have stated the platform is negatively impacting the mental health crisis.
1 month ago
The SafeUT app provides real-time crisis intervention for people in immediate distress....
Jed Boal, KSL TV

Experts: SafeUT app has helped thwart threats at Utah schools

The SafeUT app was launched more than five years ago as a response to a public health crisis with suicide. That app has also helped thwart violent attacks at schools.
1 month ago
Members of the community gather at a City of Uvalde Town Square for a prayer vigil in the wake of a...
KSL TV

Psychologist gives advice for parents to talk to children about school shootings

Outrage and heartbreak have gripped the country after 19 children and two adults were massacred at Ross Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
1 month ago
Utah Health Department Sign...
Ladd Egan, KSL TV

Utah 2021 Student Survey: Mental health concerns increase while drug use decreases

A 2021 survey of Utah students shows the impact of the pandemic on their lives with an increase in mental health concerns but a decrease in substance use.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
No Sirens, No Flashing Lights: ‘Mental Health Ambulances’ Available For Utahns In Distress