Mental health services for children are expanding in western Utah with an innovative mobile and telehealth program that brings stabilization services and follow-up visits directly to the family’s home, free of charge.
In-person Stabilization Mobile Response (SMR) is expanding to urban and rural counties in Utah’s western region, including Wasatch, Utah, and Juab counties, as part of a partnership with Utah Department of Health and Human Services and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
Wayne, Piute, Severe, Millard and Sanpete counties also will receive Stabilization Mobile Response services via telehealth.
The program aims to engage a child’s natural support system during a mental health challenge and keep them in their homes, whenever possible. SMR is now available in 15 of 29 counties statewide.
"This is part of an ongoing effort to grow and provide these additional resources to children and families throughout Utah," said Kim Kettle, Director for the Office of Coordinated Care & Regional Supports with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services. "This is still in the beginning stages, and while capacity will be limited, it is an important step forward to ensure all Utahns have access to mental health services.”
Intermountain Healthcare’s hospital emergency departments have seen a 300+ percent increase in pediatric mental health crises over the past 10 years, and an estimated 40 percent of kids who have depression are not getting care, said Katy Welkie, RN, MBA, chief executive officer of Primary Children’s Hospital and vice president of Intermountain Children’s Health.
“We are proud to partner with state and local agencies to bring the strength of Primary Children’s to the homes of children who need care in a crisis, but who don’t necessarily need to go to the emergency room for help,” said Welkie. “Expanding behavioral health services is a critical piece of our ‘Primary Promise’ to create the nation’s model health system for children. SMR and the use of telehealth is a good initial step toward this goal.”
In Utah, suicide is a leading cause of death among children ages 10-17 years old.
“Often, children experiencing mental health challenges are brought to a hospital’s emergency room for treatment. But about 60 percent of the time, the child does not require hospitalization, and is sent home,” said Lisa Giles, MD, University of Utah Health and medical director of behavioral health for Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “There is a significant need for more appropriate services for these families, and this program seeks to fill that need with immediate stabilization and continued check-ins with the child.”
Stabilization Mobile Response is designed to help families in several circumstances, be it a toddler having a two-hour tantrum, or a teen who wrote a suicidal note.
In such cases, a parent or guardian can call 1-833-SAFE FAM for help. A trained professional will answer the call, help the family with de-escalation, and determine services that best fit the family’s needs.
When appropriate, a Stabilization Mobile Response team of behavioral health specialists comes to the home. The team conducts an assessment by talking with the child and the parents and creates a support plan.
In cases when families face compounded stressors and barriers to treatment, stabilization services continue for up to eight weeks. This includes home visits, coaching, therapy, skill-building, and connecting to other resources when appropriate.
SMR has been expanding in Utah for several years. Davis Behavioral Health premiered the service in the northern region, which includes Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Rich, Morgan and Weber counties, in 2017.
Supported by a grant from Intermountain Foundation, SMR expanded to Salt Lake County in 2020 in a partnership with the Utah Department of Health and Human services and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. Leaders hope to be able to further expand the program in the future.
Parents needing mental health support for their children through SMR or other means should call 1-833-SAFE FAM.
- Primary Children’s Assessment, Referral and Consultation Service: 801-313-7711
- Utah Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- SafeUT app
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- People in life-threatening situations should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.