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SALT LAKE CITY — Kem Gardner says a desire to help his grandchildren when some struggled with mental illness was the motivation for Gardner and his wife, Carolyn, to help provide Utahns a resource for treatment.
The Huntsman Mental Health Institute revealed the name and location of the first building on the future site of the institute's Campus of Hope on Thursday. The new 78,000-square-foot Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center building will be located on 3300 South near the Salt Lake County jail and the South Salt Lake men's homeless resource center. The building is expected to open in 2024.
The Gardners donated $5 million toward the project and expansion of the Hunstman Mental Health Institute's mental health crisis services. The donation — along with other private donations, state and county funds — will nearly cover the $47 million cost of the building, according to Jerilyn Stowe, director of communications at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. An additional $3 million will need to be raised from private donors to complete the project.
"Utah has the highest prevalence of mental illness in the country, impacting every family at some point," Kem Gardner said in a Hunstman Mental Health Institute press release. "We have 30 grandchildren and have not known where to go or what treatment options are available when some of them have struggled. We have to do something different and find better ways to treat youth and adults. This center is so needed in our state."
Since the Huntsman Mental Health Institute's initial groundbreaking in 2021, it has worked and collaborated with community partners to best understand and meet the complex mental health needs of Utahns. Part of addressing those mental health needs required an expansion of services and facilities.
"The Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center is a forward-thinking concept, and what we are building is not being done anywhere else," Hunstman Mental Health Institute CEO Mark Rapaport said.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth and young adults in Utah ages 10 to 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Utah has also consistently ranked among the top 10 states for the highest suicide mortality rates. The prevalent mental health crisis in Utah has drawn attention from lawmakers, community advocates and mental health professionals across the state.
In a 2019 University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Institute report, discussion participants analyzed Utah's mental health system. Participants indicated that an ideal system would provide integrated mental and physical health services in a timely manner; consistently use mental health screenings to assess individuals and identify risk, allowing for early intervention; and ensure people have the resources to access necessary mental health services as well as safe, acuity-appropriate places to seek treatment.
The Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center is a step toward creating that ideal system. The new center will "transform the lives of thousands of people who walk through the doors of the center and help transform how we deliver mental health crisis care in our community and beyond," Rapaport said.
The Hunstman Mental Health Institute collaborated with mental health facility experts to design a building that is "welcoming and inclusive, honors the humanity of those who enter, and facilitates safe and effective care," according to the release.
Crisis services at the location will include:
- 23-hour treatment and observation stay for those in a 30-bed receiving center
- Short-term, rapid stabilization inpatient treatment in a 24-bed acute care unit
- Medication-assisted treatment clinic for individuals with opiate use disorders
- Intensive outpatient treatment for adults needing support for substance use disorders
- Mental health day treatment for adults that need more help than traditional outpatient care
Additional services provided through community input and stakeholders include:
- Free law clinic to remove legal barriers that disrupt many families with a mental health crisis
- Primary care and dental care clinics
- Intensive case management
- Connections to existing community programs for housing, health care and employment
The center will also be utilized by researchers and clinicians to develop evidence-based best practices for mental health treatment and training for future crisis care professionals.
"The building is unique because it is the first to integrate community services, training, and research with crisis care. The programs and collaborations that will occur at the center will ensure that patients and their families break the cycle of despair and receive the absolute best immediate help and ongoing support in one convenient location," Rapaport said.