Suicide Prevention Advocates Urge Lawmakers To Prioritize Mental Health

Feb 13, 2020, 8:23 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2020, 10:07 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Mental health continues to be a key focus on the hill this legislative session and advocates from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention met with lawmakers to urge them to prioritize suicide prevention and mental health legislation.

At the forefront is Rep. Steve Eliason’s and Sen. Daniel Tatcher’s House bill 32, “Crisis Services Amendments,” which Eliason called the crown jewel of mental health bills this session.

“Frankly, I think [it] has the opportunity to be the most consequential bill for mental health in the state of Utah in our history,” he said, Thursday morning in front of the Salt Lake chapter of the largest suicide prevention organization in the country.

Nearly 80 advocates with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention gathered at the capitol to urge lawmakers to make mental health legislation a priority.

Nearly 80 advocates with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention gathered at the capitol to urge lawmakers to make mental health legislation a priority.

The bill would fund 24-hour crisis mental health receiving centers in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber and Washington counties, which Eliason said makes up 85% of the state’s population.

“So these are like emergency rooms for those experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder, without all of the distractions and challenges of a traditional emergency room,” he said. “They have a recliner, they receive a behavioral health evaluation, they’re instantly connected to resources– a discharge plan with treatment options is prepared, and a safety plan is prepared, and it’s a fabulous resource for somebody in crisis.”

This bill would also create a statewide “warm line,” to offer assistance to people before they reach the point of crisis.

“We have this for Salt Lake County — right now, it’s working wonderfully,” Eliason said.

Additionally, it would fund more Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams, which act as mental health ambulances available to Utahns in distress without the sirens and flashing lights of a traditional ambulance.

Eliason said this would aid rural parts of the country that do not have access to this resource yet. Eliason is also sponsoring HB 35, Mental Health Treatment Access Amendments, which would fund the opening of 30 beds at the Utah State Hospital in addition to creating an Assertive Community Team (ACT).

“This is like a hospital without walls. Psychiatrists, social workers, [vocational] rehab, other clinicians that go out and visit individuals in the community to try to keep them out of having to go into a facility like the state hospital,” he said.

Eliason said this bill passed the house 73-to-0 after a long debate. HB 246, Mental health Workforce Amendments, recently passed the committee this week. It would fund two additional psychiatry resident positions at the University of Utah.

Eliason said the vast majority of Utah counties don’t have even one child or adolescent psychiatrist.

“That’s not acceptable,” he said

Eliason closed his remarks with an invitation for Utahns to contact their representative or senator in support of these important mental health bills. He echoed AFSP’s motto to “Be the voice!”

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

In an emergency

  • Call the police
  • Go to the emergency room

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Suicide Prevention Advocates Urge Lawmakers To Prioritize Mental Health