Valley Behavioral HealthValley Behavioral Health

by Dr. Todd Thatcher

B. Todd Thatcher, DO, CMRO, Chief Medical Officer

 

Not long ago, lifesaving medical treatment was strictly the domain of doctors and nurses. If your heart

stopped and you collapsed, or you choked on food, you were probably not going to survive unless a

medical person was standing right there. Understandably, doctors, nurses, and paramedics, can’t be

everywhere, all the time. The problem was access to immediate emergency care outside the hospital.

The solution was training everyday people to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and the

Heimlich Maneuver.

Training campaigns started in the late 1950’s. They have saved millions of lives, and changed the way

we conceptualize emergency medical care. Power to treat was transferred from the medical providers

to the average person on the street. Society learned ordinary people could make an important

difference. A similar phenomenon is taking place in the treatment of behavioral health and substance

abuse problems, and Valley Behavioral Health is leading the way.

The fundamental problem is the same as cardiac arrest, or choking; when emergency treatment is

needed there isn’t time to rush to the hospital or wait for the ambulance to arrive. Treatment needs to

start immediately, and society is learning that the ordinary person can play a very important role.

Take opioid (heroin and pain pills) overdoses as an example. Without immediate medical intervention,

people can stop breathing and die. Since the 1980’s, a drug called naloxone has been readily available in

hospitals to reverse the overdose. The problem is that people don’t usually overdose in the hospital.

They overdose in the streets and in their homes, far from the life-saving treatment they desperately

need. To save lives, naloxone is now available without a prescription to the everyday person. With a

little instruction, that person is now equipped to be the first step in stopping the overdose epidemic.

Valley Behavioral Health has taken a leading role along with other community partners like

Utahnaloxone.org, to distribute naloxone and educate the public. Both of our organizations have seen

lives saved by this initiative.

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center and USA Today, people with mental illness are 16 times

more likely to be killed by the police than other groups. Our brave citizens serving in law enforcement

are called to respond daily to mental health and substance abuse emergencies. They are good people

who want to do the right thing. They have been caught in the gap between the criminal justice and

mental health systems. Once again, psychiatrists, psychiatric APRN’s, therapists, and case managers,

can’t be everywhere all the time, so law enforcement is being trained to start delivering mental health

care at the scene.

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) for law enforcement is a national program to train select law enforcement

officers to better respond to mental health crisis calls. Started in 1988, over 2,700 police departments

across the country have been trained, according to the American Psychiatric Association. They also

report research showing that CIT trained officers are more likely to divert people to mental health

treatment than jail, and less likely to arrest. For years, Valley Behavioral Health, along with other

community partners like the University of Utah, has helped provide CIT training. In Summit County,

Valley will train officers May 8th – 12th .

It’s hard to imagine a world without first-aid treatment. It seems everyone, from Boy and Girl Scouts, to

school teachers, to bus drivers, to office workers has been trained. The movement to train everyday

people to provide this type of treatment started in 1859, and led to the founding of the Red Cross. It

has saved millions of lives. In the same way that people who are bleeding need immediate help, people

suffering a mental health crisis need help as well. In 2001, Mental Health First-Aid (MHFA) was created

to deliver that help. According to mentalhealthfirstaid.org, there are now 11,800 certified instructors

who have trained over one million people nationwide.

Valley Behavioral Health has taken a leadership role in providing this much-needed training for Summit

County. Recently, Valley helped train hospital staff, and law enforcement officers in MHFA. Several of

our staff sit on community councils and committees to help this training flow to as many people as

possible. In addition, we provide training in Question-Persuade- Refer (QPR); a method of responding to

people thinking about committing suicide. The training takes about two hours and is designed for the

average, everyday person who wants to be prepared to help someone thinking about suicide.

If you want to be prepared to make a difference in the lives of your friends and neighbors, please

contact Valley Behavioral Health in Summit County. Our office is located at 1753 Sidewinder Drive. Our

phone number is 888-949- 4864. Our web address is valleycares.com. We are ready and eager to assist

you.

Dr. Thatcher
About Dr. Thatcher