Record editorial: Outreach team would be vital part of community’s mental health progress
Who responds if you encounter a health emergency — if, say, you’ve found a loved one unconscious or if you’re experiencing chest pains? That’s easy.
Paramedics will be there shortly.
But what if it’s a mental health crisis and that loved one is suicidal or abusing alcohol or drugs?
Right now, it’s often law enforcement. But there soon may be a better answer.
Summit County, in partnership with Wasatch County, is considering creating a mobile crisis outreach team, a three-person unit of trained mental health professionals who would be tasked with responding to behavioral health emergencies where a person is at risk of harming themselves or others.
The outreach team, part of an initiative funded this year by the state Legislature, would be a tremendous asset in Summit County, marking yet another step in the community’s ongoing push to bolster mental health resources.
The formation of the outreach team would also come amid the continuing national conversation about the role of police officers. Reasonable people can disagree about that topic, but it’s difficult to argue that mental health professionals aren’t better equipped to handle mental health crises. Their expertise would ensure people get the help they need at one of the most vulnerable moments of their lives.
State lawmakers appear, at least on some level, to agree. As spelled out by the state, one of the primary goals of the mobile crisis outreach teams is reducing the need for law enforcement officers to attempt to serve as therapists as part of the ever-growing list of responsibilities on their shoulders. And the program is almost entirely paid for by $500,000 in state funding.
What would a new model look like in Summit County? According to figures provided by the county, the Park City Police Department and Summit County Sheriff’s Office responded to 233 mental health incidents in 2019. The crisis outreach team would have been expected to respond to more than 180 of those calls, providing vital mental health intervention and freeing up law enforcement resources that could be better spent solving crimes, patrolling neighborhoods and making our communities safer.
Summit County has indicated the outreach team could be up and running by November. Residents should voice their support for meeting that goal.
From that point on, people in our community suffering from mental health issues would receive the same level of emergency care as those experiencing any other health crisis.
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