U of U Health statement on racist/bias incident

ANNOUNCEMENTS

On Thursday, April 1, 2021, a patient at a University of Utah Health medical facility verbally and physically assaulted staff members.* The staff involved took the necessary steps to de-escalate the situation but were unable to avoid confrontation. This led to the staff calling for an intervention to protect the patient, other patients and staff. Several staff members received significant injuries. One employee who responded to assist was threatened, referred to with a racial slur and was physically assaulted by the patient. University of Utah’s Racist and Bias Incident Response Team (RBIRT) was notified because the patient used racist language, threatened this individual and caused physical harm. The incident was reported as a hate crime for purposes of the university’s annual CLERY report. An assessment was conducted with University Police, and it does not appear that the individual poses any further risk to University of Utah Health staff or the greater university community at this time. RBIRT is actively working with University of Utah Health staff to resolve the incident.

University of Utah Health is working to ensure that the victims of this incident—our valued employees—get the proper healing, care and support they need. The University of Utah Health community will not ignore the pervasiveness of racism in our state and our country and will not tolerate violent and racist behavior from anyone—students, patients, faculty, staff or visitors to our hospitals and clinics. Creating an equitable, safe and welcoming campus is our top priority, and the university will continue to take action against those who undermine our values.

Prior to this event, as part of University of Utah Health’s ongoing commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) a new Senior Director of EDI, Mikel Whittier, has been hired to lead strategies to strengthen EDI across all University of Utah hospitals and clinics. Mikel will work with staff and administrators to determine how best to support our medical staff who may be the targets of racist behavior.

University of Utah Health has many resources available to support the staff affected directly and they are being referred to the appropriate care.

Any staff, trainees, or faculty needing mental health support can access free services through the Employee Assistance Program (EPA) or call the 24/7 Utah Crisis Line at Huntsman Mental Health Institute1-800-273-8255 or the Utah Warm Line 833-SPEAKUT. The SafeUT Frontline Crisis Text app provides Utah health care providers 24/7 confidential access at no cost.

Additional counseling and support services are available from several entities across campus:

This incident will be posted on the RBIRT website. Any additional questions or concerns can be directed to RBIresponse@utah.edu.

*Please note that to protect patient privacy, and in accordance with federal law, specific information about this incident is not included in this statement.