Mental health care partnership between Summit County and U of U Health receives national recognition for Medicaid innovation


Boram Kim


A partnership between Utah’s Summit County and University of Utah Health Plans was featured in a report by the Institute for Medicaid Innovation for its work to address social determinants of health (SDOH) and improve health equity during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


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Entitled Medicaid Managed Care’s Pandemic Pivot: Addressing Social Determinants of Health to Improve Health Equity, the report looked at best practices for providing equitable access to COVID vaccines, increasing access to food and housing, improving maternal health, and more. 

In August of 2019, Summit County signed a $4.2 million contract ($2.6 million in state and county funds and $1.6 million in federal Medicaid match funds) with University of Utah Health Plans to provide behavioral health services to the county’s Medicaid recipients and patients without insurance. .

The Healthy U Behavioral (HUB) plan was the first Medicaid Accountable Care Organization (ACO) in Utah to administer mental health and substance abuse services to recipients at the county level. 

Funded by Episcopal Health Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the report said the county was a community of “stark socioeconomic inequalities” with migrant Latino workers accounting for 40% of the population during the winter tourist season.

“Early in the pandemic, Summit County’s COVID-19 infection rate was in the nation’s top-five per capita,” read the report. “As businesses shut down, service-sector workers lost jobs and were not eligible for unemployment benefits. Healthy U Behavioral and its role in the coalition accelerated access to its newly formed network for behavioral health care and social needs.”

The report highlighted the partnership’s ability to expand services and enrollment for behavioral health during the pandemic as 2,400 residents enrolled in 2020. 


Source: Institute for Medicaid Innovation


Administrators were able to develop a network of contracted behavioral health providers, including the University’s Huntsman Mental Health Institute, multiple community-based organizations, and onsite behavioral health providers in schools that streamlined behavioral health service delivery for Medicaid-eligible and uninsured individuals in Summit County. 

Providers worked with schools to deliver laptops to students so that they could access education and mental health services from home during the lockdown. The program connected low-income households with free, high-speed internet. School therapists utilized telehealth to serve school children and their families.

Bilingual and bicultural services were expanded through a psychiatric clinic partnership with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute in Salt Lake City, which provided native Spanish-speaking psychiatric and social services to clients.

HUB also collaborated with Peace House, a nonprofit organization focused on interpersonal violence and providing services to survivors of abuse, and Holy Cross Ministries, a nonprofit organization centered around the health and wellbeing of underserved communities, to promote its services and support within the community.