Community contributions reach $ 67 million in Utah to address COVID-related mental health crisis


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Ray Bailey, Youth Suicide Prevention Program Manager at the Utah Department of Human Services, speaks with Mikelle Moore, Senior Vice President and Community Health Manager at Intermountain Healthcare, after a press conference at Intermountain Healthcare Intermountain Healthcare Transformation Center in Murray on Friday July 2, 2021 (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

MURRAY – The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a record level of mental health problems around the world and a collaboration of healthcare partners in Utah aims to help.

Intermountain Healthcare has partnered with the Utah Department of Social Services, Latino Behavioral Health, and the Utah Pride Center to address the COVID-related mental health crisis by connecting partner organizations to community contributions totaling $ 67 million. dollars to improve access to mental health care for marginalized people in Utah.

Utah in particular has struggled to tackle mental health even before the pandemic, ranking last in the country for access to mental health and sixth in the country for per capita suicide deaths. in 2019.

“The organizations and groups we work with have been the heart and soul of our community,” said Intermountain Senior Vice President and Community Leader Mikelle Moore on Friday. “We recognize that we need to expand our own services, and we are doing it.”

A handful of health care providers have highlighted the need to improve the accessibility of mental health care in Utah among underrepresented communities who are disproportionately affected by mental health issues, particularly individuals LGBTQ and Latin Americans.

“We all deserve a place at the table. Diversity and unity are not opposites,” said Doug Thomas, director of the Utah Department of Social Services.

One of the ways COVID-19 has led to positive developments in access to mental health is the drastic increase in telehealth opportunities. Thomas said that between March and April 2020, Utah saw the largest increase in telehealth, from just over 200 people to 14,000.

With this spike, it became increasingly important to improve access through language and culture, which led to the development of the Utah disaster counseling line, UTAH STRONG, which can be reached by calling 385-386-2289.

In a state that already ranks among suicide deaths, it is also one of the leading causes of death among LGBTQ youth in Utah.

Ray Bailey, head of the Youth Suicide Prevention Program in the Utah Department of Social Services, and also a transgender member of the community, said transgender youth, in particular, are considered to be at high risk of death. by suicide.

Bailey said that as a transgender member of the community, they were happy to work for a program that seeks to lower those numbers by promoting education on LGBTQ issues, guiding employers to create a safe work environment, by advocating for model policies and promoting positive mental health among gay youth.

“We are not inherently more prone to mental illness, rather we live in a culture of oppression,” said Michelle Anklin, licensed clinical social worker at the Utah Pride Center.

The pride center has moved all of its programming online, including free support groups for young people as well as groups for people 18 and over. It also offers individual advice thanks to grants from Intermountain.

When it comes to accessibility for the Latino community in Utah, the main issues are language barriers, cultural barriers, insecurity and documentation issues, explained Javier Allegra, CEO of Latino Behavioral Health.

“The number of Latinx people seeking mental health treatment has increased by 63%,” he said. “We don’t have the capacity, as a small organization, to serve everyone. We have to be creative in delivering the services, and the best way we know of is to partner and collaborate. “

Intermountain has also focused on connecting people with providers in their community through their clinical behavioral health program.

Due to racism, job loss, and other issues brought to light during COVID-19, they launched a hotline at 833-442-2211 to help people understand clinical issues, deal with issues of insurance and put them in contact with a supplier. This hotline received approximately 6,500 calls from April 2020 to April 2021.

Navigating behavioral health can be difficult, especially for those who are frail and already in pain, said Tammer Atallah, registered clinical social worker and executive clinical director of the program.

“The purpose of this service is to really help connect people and make a specific connection in order to limit that risk,” he said. “It’s more important than ever before.”

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Crisis hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-691-5433
  • Salt Lake County Crisis Line / UNI: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ Teens: 1-866-488-7386

Online resources

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