Coalition publishes document detailing needs, barriers in Utah behavioral health

Jan 12, 2024, 6:00 AM

Client Cassie Wilkin, left, participates in individual therapy with Kelly Birch at CORE for Women, ...

FILE: Client Cassie Wilkin, left, participates in individual therapy with Kelly Birch at CORE for Women, a residential treatment facility of Valley Behavioral Health, in Salt Lake City. The Utah Behavioral Health Coalition revealed its master plan on Thursday, which provides an overview of behavioral health in Utah. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah and across the country on Thursday, mental and behavioral health needs were front and center. Nationally, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced nearly $300 million that will help fund mental health resources in America’s schools.

The money is part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which, according to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education 

Also on Thursday, the Utah Behavioral Health Assessment and Master Plan was made public.  Created by the Utah Behavioral Health Coalition, the master plan provides an overview of where Utah ranks on certain mental health indicators and issues that the Coalition sees as impediments to the industry.

Related: Latino Behavioral Health Services

The plan was made public at a roundtable discussion at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. 

In behavioral health early intervention is key, but Utah group says there are barriers

Huntsman Mental Health Institute Executive Director Ross von Vranken said that early intervention, as is the case in other parts of medicine, is key to successful mental health treatment.

“It’s no different than any other part of medicine,” he told KSL NewsRadio. “The earlier the intervention, the better the outcomes, and the less likely somebody is to have kind of debilitating, lifelong chronic conditions as a result of their illness.”

Standing in the way of early intervention, von Vranken said, is a workforce shortage.

“We don’t have enough providers in Utah to really take care of everybody,” von Vranken said. “Some people wait for months to get in for treatment or don’t get in treatment at all.” He says though it’s getting better, some people don’t seek help because of the stigma of having a behavioral health issue.

Another barrier to early intervention is cost.

“You’ve got a lot of high deductible insurance products now. If you’re paying out of pocket and you’re a little stretched for resources or dollars, you’re not going to go get help.”

Finally, von Vranken said that housing is a major barrier to getting and staying healthy.

“Particularly for the chronically and severely mentally ill. We just don’t have programs that sustain them while they’re recovering,” he said. “We need to keep focused on housing, both intermediate and permanent supported housing, that’s a critical piece of all this.”

What to do if you are in crisis

If you are in crisis please call 988 to connect with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Crisis hotlines

Huntsman Mental Health Institute Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
SafeUT Crisis Line: 833-372-3388
Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386

Online resources

NAMI Utah:


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Coalition publishes document detailing needs, barriers in Utah behavioral health