Stabilization crisis services for Utah children expand to 8 counties


Patrick Jones


The Utah Department of Human Services (DHS) and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital have expanded the Stabilization and Mobile Response (SMR) program to 8 additional counties. The program brings stabilization services and follow-up visits to children undergoing a mental health crisis—either in-person or through behavioral health—free of charge. 

SMR is expanding in-person services to Wasatch, Utah, and Juab counties, and is expanding telehealth services in Wayne, Piute, Sevier, Millard, and Sanpete counties. 


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“This is part of an ongoing effort to grow and provide these additional resources to children and families throughout Utah,” said Kim Kettle, Interim Director of the Office of Quality and Design at DHS. “This is still in the beginning stages, and while capacity will be limited, it is an important step forward to ensure all Utahns have access to mental health services.”

The service was first implemented by Davis Behavioral Health in 2017 and served Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Rich, Morgan, and Weber counties. A grant from the Intermountain Foundation led to the expansion into Salt Lake County in 2020. 

The program aims to bring stabilization services for mental health crises to Utah children to keep them in their homes whenever possible, according to an Intermountain press release. Bringing the services to them helps families who may have trouble with access to services due to their social determinants of health to reduce emergency department (ED) visits. 

SMR aims to also help kids stay out of the ED. Intermountain’s EDs have seen an over 300% increase in pediatric mental health crises in the last 10 years, according to Intermountain. 

Coupled with the increase in child ED visits, 40% who have depression are not getting the care they need, said Katy Welkie, RN, Chief Executive Officer of Intermountain’s Primary Children’s Hospital and Vice President of Intermountain Children’s Health.

“Often, children experiencing mental health challenges are brought to a hospital’s emergency room for treatment. But about 60 percent of the time, the child does not require hospitalization, and is sent home,” said Lisa Giles, MD, University of Utah Health and Medical Director of Behavioral Health for Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “There is a significant need for more appropriate services for these families, and this program seeks to fill that need with immediate stabilization and continued check-ins with the child.” 

When their child is in crisis, parents are to call 1-833-SAFE FAM in order to access SMR services. Depending on the situation, a trained professional will come to their home to stabilize their crisis, attempt to de-escalate, and help where they can. 

If families lack access to follow-up behavioral health services, the program will conduct frequent stabilization services for up to 8 weeks. These services include home visits, therapy, coaching, and connecting the family to other resources they can access. The professional will also help the family come up with a support plan to best fit their needs. 

“We are proud to partner with state and local agencies to bring the strength of Primary Children’s to the homes of children who need care in a crisis, but who don’t necessarily need to go to the emergency room for help,” Welkie said. “Expanding behavioral health services is a critical piece of our ‘Primary Promise’ to create the nation’s model health system for children. SMR and the use of telehealth is a good initial step toward this goal.”