New report shows success in community crisis intervention programs


Eli Kirshbaum


The University of Utah Huntsman Mental Health Institute’s (HMHI) most recent Community Crisis Report finds that multiple mental health services offered by HMHI’s Community Crisis Intervention & Support Services saw success in FY 2021. 

The annual report says the Utah Crisis Line, the state’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOTs), the Utah Warm Line, the Safe UT App, and the Safe Care Transition Follow-Up Program have helped decrease suicide rates in Utah over the past year.


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The Utah Crisis Line, which provides 24/7 mental health support to callers experiencing mental health struggles, experienced a 32% increase in call volume in FY 2021, receiving 92,532 total calls. The Crisis Line is associated with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

The top reasons for Crisis Line calls were situational stress, harm to self, psychosis/grave disability concerns, and substance use. The report says 86% of these concerns were resolved over the phone. Eight percent of them resulted in MCOT engagement, 4% were referred to a “higher level of care,” and 2% resulted in collaboration with law enforcement. The Crisis Line overall provided 1,353 life-saving suicide interventions.

In anticipation of the July 2022 implementation date for the nationwide 988 crisis hotline, HMHI says it’s focused on maintaining and improving crisis service quality, expanding the number of crisis workers to increase accessibility to the Utah Crisis Line, and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health treatment.

The Utah Warm Line, which connects individuals recovering from behavioral health issues with certified specialists who have had similar experiences, saw a 6% increase in call volume in 2021. The top reasons for Warm Line calls were mental health needs, situational stress, physical health, and substance abuse.

Utah’s MCOTs provide 24/7 behavioral health support by dispatching to any area in Salt Lake County through referral from the Utah Crisis Line. Each team is staffed by a licensed mental health professional and a certified peer support specialist. According to the report, MCOTs made 6,661 contacts in 2021–75% were for adults and 25% were for youth. Seventy-nine percent of the adults and 85% of the youth had their crisis resolved after being contacted by an outreach team.

The report gave an overview of the history of MCOTs in Utah:


Image: HMHI


The SafeUT app allows individuals experiencing mental health issues to have a real-time text chat with master’s level mental health counselors. It also lets individuals submit confidential tips if they’re concerned about someone’s mental health. SafeUT Commission Chair Ric Cantrell told State of Reform in October that the app has played a “heroic” role in providing people with mental health support during the pandemic.

The report says SafeUT received 30,527 chats and tips in 2021, resulting in 298 life-saving interventions. The intensity and duration of calls increased during the pandemic, according to the report, and mostly involved suicidal ideation and “related struggles.” HMHI also noted that utilization of the app has been stronger in high-poverty areas of the state.

The Institute’s Self Care Transition Follow-Up Program provides outgoing support calls to individuals who were recently discharged from an inpatient facility stay and exhibited any level of suicidal thoughts or intent during their visit. The report says 7,716 care connection calls were made in 2021. The program had 2,085 total enrollees, 1,920 were new enrollees. Ninety-two percent of enrollees were referred to services upon discharge, according to the report.

See a breakdown of participation in the program below:


Image: HMHI


The report emphasizes that crisis centers are a critical resource for follow-up care and that effective use of crisis centers could reduce community suicide rates by 20-30%.