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Mental health crisis center expected in South Salt Lake

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Friday, October 6, 2023   

A new mental-health crisis center is coming to South Salt Lake.

Expected to open in 2025, the new 24/7 Kem and Carolyn Gardner Crisis Center will assist Utahns experiencing mental-health challenges and substance addiction. According to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, more than 100,000 Utahns experience serious mental illness and more than half of Utah adults with poor mental health do not receive treatment or counseling.

Ross Van Vranken, executive director of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said this one-of-a-kind facility will aim to improve those statistics.

"This really speaks to the stigma of mental illness and substance use and why a lot of people don't get treatment," he said. "And what we are trying to do is make it easy and accessible and also trying to kind of eliminate that stigma."

Vranken said the $64 million facility will have the capacity to treat and stabilize 30 patients at a time and include a 24-bed in-patient facility. He said no one will be turned away for "their inability to pay." He said the center has received funding from Medicaid for eligible patients and is hoping to work with insurance companies to help cover costs so that the burden doesn't only fall on the county or state.

Currently, six centers in Utah are staffed by therapists, nursing staff and peer counselors who provide treatments to those in need. The Kem and Carolyn Gardner Crisis Center will be the newest place where people can receive treatment rather than being cited or sent to jail. Vranken said too many people with mental illness have spent unnecessary time in jails or emergency rooms.

In addition to clinical and crisis services, the center will also incorporate help provided by free dental and law clinics.

"You can imagine a lot of these folks get kind of nuisance charges and then they don't show up for their hearing and they're in contempt and there is a warrant for their arrest," he said. "It's just kind of cleaning up a lot of these nuisance charges to actually prevent them from getting funding and housing and all kinds of other things."

Vranken said the most critical part to mental-health treatment is patient engagement. He added that those who will work at the crisis care center will develop relationships to ensure those who need care are receiving it.


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