Salt Lake County Council to fund temporary mental health receiving center

 A majority of the Salt Lake County Council is co-sponsoring $2.5 million in onetime federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund a temporary mental health receiving center at the existing Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI). Council members will champion a vote for the essential use of these dollars at the Salt Lake County Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

Funds from the Council will cover the cost of retrofitting and expanding an existing space at the HMHI. It will also cover 17 months of staffing to allow operations beginning in April 2023 until a new center is finished in Fall 2024. The new Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center is being built in South Salt Lake, near the County’s Adult Detention Center. However, there is high demand for a receiving center now, before the new center opens. Mental health receiving centers allow law enforcement officers to bring those having a mental health crisis to a safe place where professional help is available.

“In the time I’ve been on the Council, I’ve never seen eight council members co-sponsor an agenda item,” said Salt Lake County Chair Laurie Stringham. “This shows the commitment of the Council to support mental health resources for our residents.”

“The current option is to take those who are experiencing a crisis to jail or an emergency room—which is costly, can take more of an officer’s time, and may not give those in crisis the long-term help they need,” said Ross Van Vranken, executive director of the HMHI. “We applaud the Council and mayor’s foresight and commitment to mental health resources.”

“The County is designated as the mental health authority by the state, and we operate the jail, so this is a good fit,” said County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton. “This investment will not only improve mental health outcomes but will save taxpayer dollars in the long run.”

As was proposed in Mayor Jenny Wilson’s budget, the Council will also approve funding for an additional $1 million towards the building of the Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center.

“The $1 million donation was included in my proposed budget to go towards the construction of the permanent space,” said Mayor Jenny Wilson. “We are committed to getting this finished and appreciate all those who have partnered on this project.”