Members of the Salt Lake County Council came together on Tuesday to expedite the construction of a temporary mental health facility that will aid those in need while a permanent facility is being developed. The existing Huntsman Mental Health Institute will be renovated and expanded thanks to a unanimous vote by the nine-member council to spend $2.5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
This will provide police with a new location to take people in crisis that isn’t a jail or an emergency room.
According to a news release from the council’s chair, Laurie Stringham, “I’ve never seen eight council members co-sponsor an agenda item in the time I’ve been on the council.” This demonstrates the council’s dedication to supporting mental health resources for our residents. Dave Alvord, a council member, did not co-sponsor the legislation but did support it with a vote.
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The investment will pay for 17 months of employment starting in April in addition to refit expenditures. Until the permanent Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center in South Salt Lake is constructed in the fall of 2024, labor costs will be reimbursed. Any funds left over from the temporary center may be applied to the new building.
Council members decided to open a temporary facility while the permanent center is being built due to the high demand for services. A temporary receiving center would aid in the fight against homelessness, said Salt Lake City Council members Victoria Petro-Eschler, Ana Valdemoros, and Alejandro Puy, who were present at the County Council meeting on Tuesday to support the financing.
West-side City Council member Petro-Eschler said, “The folks who live on North Temple are lovely persons worthy of dignity and are in a spiral.” And I firmly believe that doing so is in our best interests as a group. “Any relief we can offer, any arrow we can add to the quiver in tackling this situation, is in our best interests as a group.”
Aimee Winder Newton, a member of the county council, said in a statement that the investment is wise because state officials have designated county governments as the mental health authorities in Utah.
She claimed that this investment will not only lead to better mental health results but also long-term cost savings for the government.
According to a statement from Ross VanVranken, executive director of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, sending people in crisis to jail and hospitals is expensive, time-consuming, and doesn’t offer the long-term care that people need. This demonstrates the council’s dedication to supporting mental health resources for the community, he claimed.
Council members also plan to support a proposal in Mayor Jenny Wilson’s budget that would add $1 million more to the South Salt Lake reception center’s construction, bringing the county’s total commitment to the long-term facility to $6 million (not including the land the county donated for the project).
Wilson added in a statement that “we are determined to finish this and appreciate all those who have partnered on this initiative.” The permanent center, which will be situated next to the county jail, will be funded in part with $3.5 million from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation.