BY TOM BUSSELBERG
BOUNTIFUL — Officers are increasingly being called for help with mental health issues in the city.
But Police Chief Tom Ross said a cooperative program started with Davis Behavioral Health last November appears to be helping. It has kept many patients out of hospitals or longer-term treatment.
The hospital option is used only when physical harm or suicide intentions are involved, or when someone wants to go, he said.
For others, a mental health worker is dispatched to the home. A police officer stays on scene until after the mental health crisis case worker has arrived and assessed the situation, Ross said.
Many of those people with mental health issues are current or past clients of Davis Behavioral Health. Often, the crisis case worker is familiar with the situation, the chief said.
“Especially if it’s a medication issue, they’re able to start treating them right away,” he said. “We hope over time the patients will at least receive care that is more comfortable for them.”
Under the new system, patients are often helped sooner and at home compared to being taken, possibly against their will, to another facility.
Law enforcers can spend more time on other calls, and the cost to Davis Behavioral Health is lessened, Ross said.
“Everyone wins” when a patient can be kept in their home and still receive help, said Brandon Hatch, Davis Behavioral Health executive director.
Cost is also a factor. The county’s mental health agency has to foot the bill for what can be extended care hospital stays costing $900 to $1,200 a day, he said.
“This allows us to serve more people with our tax dollars,” Hatch said.
Bountiful’s pilot program is being expanded to several other South Davis cities and could be implemented county-wide in the future.
That program is among ways Davis Behavioral Health is “not reducing services or staff,” but doing it with less funding, he said.
About $70,000 in substance abuse program funding has been lost due to federal sequestration, he said.
Early intervention teams visiting youth in their homes several times a week also are proving effective in reducing long-term hospital stays, Hatch said.
Sequestration has had an impact, but “it hasn’t been nearly as bad as it could’ve been,” he added.