SafeUT is a smartphone app for Utahns who want to contact licensed mental health clinicians in times of crisis. The app can also be used as a tip line if you notice someone who may need help. And it's also being used to convince state lawmakers to fund mental health counselors in Utah schools.
Creators of the SafeUT app say it could cost as much as $70 million to provide adequate mental health services in Utah schools. Republican Senator Lyle Hillyard of Logan who chairs the state public education appropriation committee says a report by the Safe UT committee last week has convinced him that the app is saving lives.
“Just shocking the number of kids that call on that number with very serious, serious problems," he said. "And they say some of those workers on that phone, although they are professionals, they really have to take a break after some of those calls. They like the calls because they can trace the calls and many end up sending police to the home because the child is [suicidal].”
Launched in 2016, and highly publicized last fall, Hillyard says he’s more and more convinced by the efficiency of the app. According to the app creators, there were no high school-aged suicides in Utah during the month of October. But Hillyard is a budget man and with the $70 million figure looming in the back of his head, the lawmaker is suggesting block grants be used by each school to determine how to keep students safe.
“And saying you could spend this now for counselors, social workers, nurses – you can use it to make your building more safe against shooters, because some schools already have the counselors, they’ve got ahead and done it, so I would like us to do more of a block grant with some criteria that they can spend it as the locals want to,” he said.
Hillyard said he hopes the SafeUT app remains as the first line of defense when it comes to mental health issues in public schools. The app provides a 24/7 crisis line call center with licensed clinicians located at the University of Utah.