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Utah expands mental health services for children and teens

A person with long hair holds a heart made from glowing wires

Utah emergency departments are seeing an increase in pediatric mental health crises. In response, state healthcare officials are expanding at-home services.

Children’s mental health services are expanding in Utah with Stabilization Mobile Response, or SMR, a mobile and telehealth program that brings stabilization services and follow-up visits directly to a family’s home, free of charge. These services are designed to defuse an immediate crisis and keep children and families safe.

In-person SMR is expanding to western Utah, including Wasatch, Utah, and Juab counties, as part of a partnership with Utah Department of Health and Human Services and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. Telehealth SMR services will also be available in Wayne, Piute, Sevier, Millard and Sanpete counties.

Intermountain Healthcare’s hospital emergency departments have seen a 300+ percent increase in pediatric mental health crises over the past 10 years, and an estimated 40 percent of kids who have depression are not getting care. In Utah, suicide is a leading cause of death among children ages 10-17 years old.

SMR is designed to help families in a variety of circumstances, from tantruming infants to teens experiencing mental health crises, and the program aims to engage a child’s natural support system during a mental health challenge and keep them in their homes, whenever possible.

For families needing SMR assistance, a parent or guardian can call 1-833-SAFE FAM for help. A trained professional will answer the call, help the family with de-escalation, and determine services that best fit their needs. When appropriate, an SMR team of behavioral health specialists comes to the home. The team conducts an assessment by talking with the child and the parents and creates a support plan for up to eight weeks.

Healthcare officials hope to expand the program in the future.

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.