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New partnership to help families better connect with mental health care

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SALT LAKE CITY — Dr. Scott Whittle sees patients come to primary care offices for diabetes, heart conditions and cancer. He wishes they could come to the same place for mental health care.

"We want behavioral health to be in primary care settings," he said. "So if I'm there getting help with my diabetes, I can just down the hall get help with how I manage stress."

One in 3 Utahns will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. And that's part of the reason KSL is teaming with Intermountain Healthcare and Select Health to help families better connect with mental health treatment.

"Mental health issues or issues with suicide or addiction can be very isolating," said Tanya Vea, VP and general manager of Bonneville SLC, which includes KSL.

News headlines reflect the dire statistics in Utah, according to Utah Department of Health.

"It's tough to use words like devastating. But we've actually bent the mortality curve in the state of Utah with the opioid epidemic," Whittle said.

Behind those tragic numbers is a person who lived and family members and friends who are grieving.

"So for us, it is important to let those families know that there is hope, that there is help and that somebody cares about them and what they are going through," Vea said.

Getting help and hope are key because at least 75 percent of people who received mental health treatment found it helpful. Connecting families with that treatment could save lives.

Another goal of the partnership is to launch a more open community dialogue about mental wellness.

In the coming months, KSL-TV and KSL Newsradio will air public service announcements and frequent news stories about the innovative ways Intermountain Healthcare and Select Health are helping families access health for their minds, in addition to their bodies.

"It's a collective, community effort that is going to have to happen for us to really make progress in this and KSL is a part of that," Vea said.

Candice Madsen

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