BRMH 2021 plan includes new crisis outreach team

CACHE COUNTY – Members of the Cache County Council are now weighing approval of the 2021 area plan recently submitted by Bear River Mental Health services.

During a Nov. 10 presentation to council members, BRMH CEO Beth Smith said that an important addition to her organization’s services is a recently established Mobile Crisis Outreach Team.

Smith explained that the MCOT responds whenever police officers or sheriff’s deputies encounter a mental health emergency.

“We’re happy to help regional law enforcement officials,” she emphasized. “When the MCOT is called, we have to be able to respond in one hour in our tri-county area.

“The MCOT members provide relief and support for the police officers, who are generally not trained to deal with mental health issues … Once the police have ensured that the situation is safe, then we can stay to deal with the crisis.”

BRMH is a health-services organization based in Logan dedicated to providing professional mental health services in Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties.

Until recently, BRMH has only had such emergency response teams for people in crisis under the age of 21. During the first year that those teams were active in 2018, hospitalizations of young people with mental health issues in the BRMH district dropped by 21 percent, resulting in savings in terms of dollars, time and resources.

Given that success, BRMH officials were eager to obtain funds from the state Legislature for an MCOT for adults this year, but that effort was a roller-coaster ride, according to Smith.

The Legislature initially approved $2.6 million to fund MCOTs in rural counties during its 2020 general session, including a $500,000 allocation for BRMH. But that appropriation was stalled by the coronavirus outbreak. When that funding was finally confirmed by a special budget-balancing legislative session in June, Smith said BRMH “scrambled” to recruit team members in July and get the new MCOT “up and functioning” in October.

That addition to BRMH’s services was timely for a number of reasons.

Experts believe that as many as 20 percent of Utahns experience some type of mental health issue, but fewer than half of them seek professional help. Smith said that problem is even more dire among Utah’s youthful population, where suicide is the leading cause of death in the 10- to 17-year age group.

In the past year, Smith said BRMH served 2,300 individuals from Cache County. Sixty-three percent of them were adults; the remainders were children and youths. Fifty-three percent of them were females and 47 percent were males.

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Smith added, admissions to area mental health facilities are up by 15 percent and the number of crisis calls requiring in-person responses are up by 30 percent.

The addition of the local MCOT also comes in the midst of public demands that law enforcement responses to emergency situations be less confrontational.

The new regional MCOT includes two team members, a peer-support specialist and a social worker. A licensed therapist with a master’s degree also supports the team’s members virtually.

Smith said that that team’s effort have not only provided more timely help to people in crisis, but also yielded cost savings.

“It’s $380 event when we send out the crisis outreach team,” she explained, “versus $9,000 if a person ends up in the emergency room or an inpatient unit.”

Those results have motivated BRMH officials to seek additional funding for the MCOT as one of numerous priorities in their 2021 plan for the tri-county area.

That funding will hopefully come from local, state and federal levels, according to Smith.

Overall, BRMH is requesting a $2,800 increase in funding from Cache County, to a total of $322,000 for 2021.

Due to matching agreements with state and federal officials, that modest budget increase from county level could translate to an more than $25,000 from those sources.

 

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