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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is shouldering the growing costs of the proliferating use of SafeUT app, which provides real-time crisis intervention to youths, according to a legislative report.
For the 2018 fiscal year, the Utah Legislature appropriated $550,000 in ongoing education funds to support the app, which connects users, largely public school students, to licensed crisis workers at University Neuropsychiatric Institute.
"To date, the university has expended $785,900 due to the need for additional staff required for the support and rollout of the app. The university has absorbed the difference in funding to continue this initiative," the report states.
As of May 15, the U. spent $235,900 above the funding appropriated by the Utah Legislature, according to a report heard by the Utah Legislature's Higher Education Appropriations Subcommitee Tuesday.
Legislative fiscal manager Spencer Pratt recommended that the committee determine a "correct funding level" for the initiative.
"We just recommend that the Legislature either determine that $800,000 is the correct amount or tell the University of Utah that $550,000 is all you're going to get and if you want to spend more, that's fine," he said.
The SafeUT staff has received 107 tips dealing with 70 planned school attacks. It also notes an average of two active rescues per week of students experiencing crisis.
"If we are able to prevent one of these devastating events from occurring by funding SafeUT, these dollars are well spent.” - U of U written response
The U.'s written response to the committee states, "It is hard to put a price on the value of preventing youth suicide and planned school attacks. The social, emotional and financial losses which ensue from youth suicide or active shooter scenarios is such that if we are able to prevent one of these devastating events from occurring by funding SafeUT, these dollars are well spent.”
The SafeUT Crisis Text and Tip Line provides 24/7 crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program via smartphone. The cellphone app can be downloaded free from Apple's App Store or Google Play.
Numbers of chats and tips reported via the SafeUT app grew from 994 in 2016 to 26,175 so far this year, according to figures released during a press conference in April.
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386