Mental health EMTs a step closer to reality after Utah Senate passes bills on training

Protesters rally outside the Ogden Municipal Building
in Ogden on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020 to call attention to the
shooting by police of Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old with Asperger’s
syndrome in Salt Lake City. The Utah Senate passed two bills that
would standardize crisis intervention training and allow EMTs to
become trained for mental health emergencies.

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate on Thursday passed two bills in the effort to reform how police and emergency medical services respond to those suffering mental health emergencies.

SB53 would allow EMTs and firefighters to receive training specifically to respond to mental health calls. Then, agencies throughout the state could form teams made up of those trained EMTs, who would be dedicated specifically to mental health emergencies.

Under the bill, mental health EMT teams would not take on the role of therapists. Instead, they would triage people and help them find the resources they need, bill sponsor Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, has said.

Cities and agencies would also not be required to hire mental-health trained EMTs under the bill, he said.

As the Senate debated the bill on Thursday, Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, questioned whether it would take resources away from the state's Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams, which include licensed mental health professionals.


Thatcher said it would not, as EMTs who seek the mental health-specific training would pay for it on their own. The bill would not incur cost to the state, but is intended to supplement the outreach teams, which face heavy workloads along the Wasatch Front.

Through SB47, also sponsored by Thatcher, Utah would create a council that would work to standardize crisis intervention training for law enforcement across the state, as agencies each have their own versions of it.

Both bills will need approval from the House for final passage.

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