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Receiving center to help those in mental health crises

By Laura Giles - Herald Correspondent | Dec 18, 2021

Courtesy Wasatch Behavioral Health

Wasatch Behavioral Health's new Receiving Center will be open soon, enabling many more people to get the immediate mental health help that they need.

When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, getting help immediately can be crucial for the well-being and safety of the individual. Wasatch Behavioral Health’s Receiving Center, which is nearing completion, will be a place where individuals can get the help they need outside of traditional first responders.

In the past, hospital emergency rooms were the common destination for people with immediate mental health needs. However, emergency room patients have to meet a certain threshold to be admitted to an inpatient facility, according to Laura Oaks, Receiving Center program manager.

“Sometimes, people aren’t meeting that threshold, but they need help in the moment,” she said. Consequently, those in crisis are not always receiving the immediate help that they need.

The receiving center will be a no-refusal center. “We will work with anybody we possibly can. We do have to partner with our police officers if someone gets violent or aggressive,” Oaks said. “We can’t say no. We don’t want to say no. We want to see how we can help before they need a higher level of care.”

Law enforcement officers in Utah County have been bringing people to a small, hybrid version of the center for a few months. The expansion of the building will enable a lot more people to get the help that they need. While police officers can bring in some, the receiving center will be available to any walk-ins.

Courtesy Wasatch Behavioral Health

The receiving center of Wasatch Behavioral Health.

According to Oaks, a receiving center is a facility that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “The idea is to help people that are in behavioral health crises. We can keep the ERs from being plugged up and officers from having to respond to too many things,” she said.

Working at the center will be therapists, case managers and doctors to help people feel safe and stable enough to get back to their lives.

“We get a lot of people who are suicidal, who have needed extra support. They’re not the level of needing to go to ER, but they know they can’t stay home because it will get worse for them,” Oaks said. “We have had police drop people off who are experiencing some mania or some psychosis. We work with structure and medications. We’re not an in-patient unit. We work with hospitals to get them to a higher level of care if they have to.”

People seeking help at the receiving center can stay up to 23 hours. Wasatch Behavioral Health is also creating a sub-acute program for people who need assistance in the days after their time in the center.

The center will be arranged in a living room model, with 16 recliner chairs. The large room and the bathrooms will be set up to be anti-ligature so people can not harm themselves. According to Oaks, the living room model is used in receiving centers throughout the country and are set up so staff can monitor people’s safety while they are getting help. “A lot of times they just need the time and space to get away from whatever is causing the stress for them. This will give them a new perspective and be better able to cope with things,” she said.

“We are very pleased to open a receiving center to facilitate urgent and emergent access to behavioral health crisis services,” said Juergen Korbanka, Wasatch Behavioral Health executive director. “Receiving centers are specialty emergency and jail diversion facilities enabling us to assess and triage those presenting with a behavioral health crisis. The receiving center is an essential component of a comprehensive continuum of care for the management of behavioral health issues.”

An open house for the Wasatch’s Receiving Center will be held Jan. 14 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will be a short ceremony at noon. The center is located at 1175 E. 300 North, Provo.


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