MENTAL HEALTH

Advocates and policy makers celebrate building progress of Crisis Care Center in Salt Lake County

Aug 25, 2023, 6:00 PM

Christena Huntsman Durham hugs another ceremony attendee. The Huntsman family is one of the groups ...

Christena Huntsman Durham hugs another ceremony attendee. The Huntsman family is one of the groups who helped pay for Salt Lake County's new Crisis Care Center. (Lindsay Aerts, KSL NewsRadio)

(Lindsay Aerts, KSL NewsRadio)

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah  — On Friday a forklift carried a final foundational steel beam at the site of Salt Lake County’s new Crisis Care Center to a massive crane that hoisted the beam in place.

The move was routine. But the progress it represented was worth celebrating for policymakers and mental health advocates. 

It marks the halfway point in the building of a first-of-its-kind center in Utah. When it’s done in 2025, the facility at 3300 South and 1000 West will help Utahns experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis to quickly find help.

A forklift moves a foundational beam at the site of Salt Lake County’s new Crisis Care Center. 

“What this building will do is allow for people who have a family member who’s having a mental health crisis, or a police officer who comes across someone on the street … they’ll be able to bring them here,” said Salt Lake County Mayor, Jenny Wilson.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson speaks at the construction site of the new Crisis Care Center.

“The staff on site will be able to diagnose and stabilize.”

Policymakers say the need for Crisis Care Center is great

Salt Lake County Council Member Aimee Winder Newton shared that her own child experienced suicidal ideations and needed to be hospitalized. That motivated her to find help for others.

“[I realized that] as a county council member, when I didn’t even know who to call when my child was struggling, or where to go, that we needed that help for our community,” she said.

“Knowing where people can bring their child, or where our police officers can bring those who are mentally ill or have substance abuse issues, this is a huge day for us,” she said. 

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, first passed a crisis service amendments bill in 2020 that provided funding for projects like this. The bill helped create mental health crisis receiving centers, additional mobile crisis outreach teams, and Utah’s mental health warmline. 

Ellison said the pandemic, which hadn’t happened when the bill passed, has exacerbated the need for crisis services. 

“This type of facility was needed now more than ever.  It was needed more than ever in 2020, but now we can’t get it built fast enough,” Eliason said. 

A big public, private collaboration

Funding from the state was coupled with Mayor Wilson’s effort to champion funding from the county. Then she brought the idea to donate the land to her County Council chair Aimee Winder-Newton.

The council approved that.

A $5 million private donation came from Kem Gardiner and his wife. The Huntsman Mental Health Institute and the University of Utah also contributed. 

 “When government … and private donors, philanthropists come together we can do amazing things,” said Mayor Wilson. “Because these are costly solutions.” 

Kem Gardiner, Huntsman family members, and University of Utah President Taylor Randall joined alongside the policy makers Friday to celebrate the milestone.

More mental health funding on the way?

Wilson teased some possible legislation she would push for to provide a more ongoing revenue stream for mental health needs in the county. She said the county hopes for an allowance by the legislature and to use a sales tax increase for it. 

“We have ongoing revenue streams for transportation, arts and culture, our rec centers … we need a revenue stream for mental health and substance abuse,” she said.

She added that she wasn’t married to how that happened and that others on her staff were working on needs for the county’s homelessness problems. Eliason said he would be open to allowing the county to have that local control.  

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Advocates and policy makers celebrate building progress of Crisis Care Center in Salt Lake County