Utah bill would create EMS licenses specifically for behavioral health
Bill sponsor Sen. Daniel Thatcher said Utah could become the first state to have teams of EMS professionals specifically trained and licensed to respond to behavioral health emergencies
By Laura French
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill introduced in the Utah Senate last week would create a new license specifically for EMTs trained to respond to behavioral health emergencies.
Senate Bill 53 (SB53) would create licenses for "behavioral emergency services technicians" and "advanced behavioral emergency services technicians," which would be issued by the Utah Department of Health to EMS providers trained to work with patients experiencing substance abuse or other mental health issues.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, who sponsored the bill, said he believes Utah would become the first state to have teams of EMS professionals specifically trained and licensed to respond to behavioral health emergencies if the bill is approved, according to the Deseret News.
Behavioral EMTs would not act as therapists or diagnose patients, according to Thatcher, but triage patients experiencing mental health issues and connect them with appropriate resources. Currently, police or EMS providers trained primarily for physical health emergencies respond to behavioral health calls, Thatcher said.
The bill has the support of Utah EMS Program Director Guy Dansie, who would help lead the development of training for behavioral health EMTs.
Thatcher said mental health EMS teams could be dispatched through 911 or be connected with patients through the new 988 suicide hotline planned for launch in 2022.