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Summit County extends behavioral health care contract with U of U

The University of Utah's Huntsman Mental Health Institute has a location in Prospector (above).
Huntsman Mental Health Institute
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The University of Utah's Huntsman Mental Health Institute has a location in Prospector (above).

The price for Huntsman's services may double, then triple, during the six-month extension.

Behavioral health care includes treatment for both mental health and substance abuse.

The University of Utah’s Huntsman Mental Health Institute has provided that care in Summit County since 2019, and the county’s contract with the university expires at the end of this month.

Summit County councilmembers unanimously approved a six-month extension June 12, but the price will go up while the two parties negotiate on a longer-term agreement.

“The cost of this service, the service we want to provide to our community, is expensive—it's going to cost more than what we've been paying,” Summit County Manager Shayne Scott said on KPCW’s Local News Hour earlier this month. “But where is that middle ground? And how much can Huntsman as an organization come to the table and provide mental health services for our community at the lowest cost possible?”

The county had been paying $300,000 annually for Huntsman’s services. Scott said the university has shown it’s losing money in that deal.

Council Chair Malena Stevens and Councilmember Roger Armstrong have been on a subcommittee renegotiating the contract for the past several months.

Per the council’s June 12 vote, service will continue normally, with the exception that the county will take over behavioral health services for Summit County schools.

The other big difference is the cost. Summit County had been paying $25,000 per month. Now it will pay double that for three months, then triple that for October, November and December.

The price hikes could be avoided if the parties reach a new deal, according to Summit County Behavioral Health Director Aaron Newman.

“Once a new contractual arrangement is reached, in whatever form that may take, then we would be able to approach [University of Utah Behavioral Health] to negotiate an early termination of this agreement,” Newman told the county council.

With Huntsman’s help, the county’s behavioral health programs also assist people in Summit County drug court through a rehabilitative program for offenders with substance abuse issues.

Stevens said that support is crucial for the local criminal justice system.

“Within our system, both the Medicaid component of our system as well as the state component—which this contract is covering the state monies—I believe it's somewhere about 4,000 people are taking advantage of our system currently,” the council chair said.

The University of Utah also operates a behavioral health clinic in Park City’s Prospector neighborhood.

Scott said he’s optimistic about a new contract, even if it’s more expensive than before, because outsourcing service to Huntsman is far cheaper than providing all behavioral health services in-house. He said that could cost the county millions.

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