New clinic increases access to mental health services in Utah

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Image courtesy Behavioral Health Innovation and Dissemination Center/ University of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4)- The University of Utah’s Behavioral Health Innovation and Dissemination Center (BHIDC) has added another mental health resource for the community. 

The BHIDC’s new mental health clinic is located in the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons building at the University of Utah directly south of the Olpin Union Building where the Utah Transit Authority buses wait for their layover.

According to Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit that works to address mental health needs in the United States, Utah ranks 38 in overall access to mental health resources in the country. 

The new BHIDC clinic’s purpose is to address the problem with the lack of access to mental health resources in the state.

The U’s Department of Psychology ran pro-bono clinics in the past. BHIDC co-directors Feea Leifker and Brian Baucom say those free clinics provided a view as to the need for more services despite the number of providers that were already available.

“The waitlists were long,” Baucom said. “They filled up really quickly.”

Leifker said there was “a real need” for services in the community that offered the same thing the free clinics were but on “a very minimal scale, and for an affordable option.” 

The new clinic also provides students in the psychotherapy training programs at the U to log necessary clinical hours. As part of their education, students in the field of social work, counseling, and other psychological and psychiatric careers news clinical practice which Baucom says is essential.

“There was no way for students to benefit from all the expertise that was in departments outside of their own,” Baucom says. “We wanted to help graduate students get access to training that they didn’t have access to before.”

The new clinic is accessible to all Utahns whether it is for in-person or telehealth counseling. However, the clinic is not a part of the U of U Health system.

For the time being, the center will be staffed with 20 providers but the number could fluctuate over time. About half of the providers are from the department of psychology and the other half are medical students. A faculty member supervises the training staff.

Care is offered on a sliding scale from $20 to $120 per session depending on a client’s personal income and the therapist’s level of training. It is not necessary to have insurance to partake of the clinic’s services. Even then, the clinic does not take any insurance, making it easier for those seeking help not to feel burdened by the lack of insurance.

The clinic also aims to supplement but not duplicate what other mental health resources already have available. They’re also working with the University Neighborhood Partners, which serves Salt Lake City’s west side neighborhoods, the Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services and the Fraternal Order of Police to establish relationships with local agencies.

Specialty services offered by the clinic include treating children with Tic disorders, trichotillomania (a hair-pulling disorder), and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Baucom says she hopes to offer group therapy sessions and expand their services in that manner.

Likewise, the clinic will offer students the opportunity to conduct clinical research on the effectiveness of treatment methods. 

“We are able to monitor outcomes and test out emerging treatments to see if they’re effective in populations that we’re working to serve,” Leifker says. Clients who choose to participate in clinical research would receive their treatment free of charge.

 “We’re offering these evidence-based treatments that are, to date, not so frequently available in Utah,” Leifker says. 

To learn more about the new clinic and its services, click here.

To learn more about the BHIDC, click here

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