Mental health services expanding for children (and parents) in Utah

May 23, 2022, 2:05 PM
Primary Children's Hospital (Photo credit:
(Photo credit:

SALT LAKE CITY — Additional mental health services for children are coming to more western locations in Utah.

The state of Utah and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital have teamed up to bring an in-person team to urban and rural counties in Utah’s western region, including Wasatch, Utah, and Juab counties.

Related: May 7 declared as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah

Intermountain said that Wayne, Piute, Severe, Millard and Sanpete counties also will receive Stabilization Mobile Response services via telehealth.

The benefits of added in-person and telehealth mental health programs

The larger Stabilization Mobile Response program is needed, officials told KSL NewsRadio, because more kids need the services.

“Intermountain has seen a 300 percent increase in behavioral health and psychiatric crises [in children] in the last decade,” said Dr. Lisa Giles, Medical Director of Behavioral Health Services at Primary Children’s Hospital.  She said the Stabilization Mobile Response (SMR) program has been in Utah since 2017.

Related: Utah mental health centers ready for switch to new 988 number

“This is one program that I think does a really fantastic job of addressing this large issue of ‘How do we help kids in crisis?’ When we can meet kids where they are, in a home setting, and keep kids out of the emergency room, it’s often a much more conducive environment to help stabilize a crisis.”

She said the emergency room is the default when a child has a mental health crisis. But that the SMR program has changed that. “As the state has collected data on the effectiveness of this program,” Dr. Giles said,  “at least 30 percent of families served have said this program has kept them from taking their child to the emergency room.”

It’s helped in another area, too. “Families often call law enforcement when a child is in crisis,” Giles said, “and 20% of families have said this program has kept them from having to call law enforcement.”

What is Stabilization Mobile Response?

Stabilization Mobile Response works in three ways. First, it’s a phone number for parents to call. “A phone number that provides triage to families and youth in crisis. ‘Okay. What do we do now? What’s the next step? What needs to happen?'”

Related: Researchers say mental health affected by daylight exposure

Based on what they learn in the initial call, the team can send someone to the home right away. “The mobile response portion is ‘Hey, we actually need someone to come to where you are, assess the situation and provide that hands on support to get through the crisis,” Giles said. “And then the third part of the service is the  in-home stabilization.”

Mental health services: from toddler to teenager

“The service is for anyone under the age of 20 in the state, and so really can be anything the family is considering a crisis,” Dr. Giles explained. “It can be a toddler who’s having an extreme temper tantrum breakdown and you just do not know what to do because the behaviors are so extreme, to a teenager who’s feeling suicidal.”

SMR is not just help for the child. It’s help for the family. “Typically, it’s providing interventions for the child that’s in crisis, but also with the family to help them know how to best respond and know what to do.”

In-person or telehealth

Sometimes the only help that is needed is connecting the family to resources, but when a mobile response is needed, it can be in person or telehealth. “The difference between that mobile response being in person versus virtual depends mostly on geography,” Dr. Giles said. “So, right now in-person mobile response is available in Wasatch, Utah and Juab Counties in the western region, and also Salt Lake and many of our counties in the north.

“We are launching a virtual response service in Wayne, Piute, Severe, Millard and Sanpete counties.”

Parents needing mental health support for their children through SMR or other means should call 1-833-SAFE-FAM.  The Utah Crisis Line is 801-587-3000. Download the SafeUT app or dial 911 in life-threatening situations.


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Mental health services expanding for children (and parents) in Utah