New U clinic addresses gaps in mental health needs

Utahns now have an additional mental health resource in the University of Utah’s Behavioral Health Innovation and Dissemination Center (BHIDC). All Utah residents are eligible for services at the center, which employs research-based treatments, regardless of income, insurance or location.
The center is now open. Contact them via this form or by calling 801-581-4697. BHIDC is located in the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons building and is a part of the College of Social & Behavioral Science (CSBS).

Learn more about BHIDC here.

Addressing needs

BHIDC co-directors Feea Leifker and Brian Baucom, both faculty members in the U’s department of psychology, have previously run small pro bono mental health clinics for the community. These limited free clinics offered a glimpse of the vast needs for services, even with the multitude of providers already available.

“The wait lists were long,” Baucom says, “and they filled up really quickly.”

“We saw a real need in the community for the services that we were offering on a very minimal scale, and for an affordable option,” Leifker says.

At the same time, U students in psychotherapy training programs needed opportunities to log clinical hours. These trainees are in the department of psychology as well as  social work, clinical mental health counseling, counseling psychology, clinical psychology, psychiatric/mental health nursing practice and psychiatry. Students in all of those programs need practical clinical experience as part of their education.

“There was no way for students to benefit from all the expertise that was in departments outside of their own,” Baucom says. “We wanted to help graduate students get access to training that they didn’t have access to before.”

Flexibility outside the insurance system

BHIDC is a clinic offering mental health services to all Utahns, with in-person counseling for those able to come to the U campus and telehealth options as needed. The clinic is not a part of the U of U Health system.

The number of providers will fluctuate over time, but the center is beginning with 20. Roughly half are from the department of psychology and half are medical residents. All trainees are supervised by a faculty member.

Meet some of the providers here.

Care is offered on a sliding scale from $20 to $120 per session, depending on clients’ income and the therapist’s level of training. Insurance is not a requirement. In fact, the clinic does not take insurance.

“We provide a way for everyone to access mental health care from university faculty and trainees without restrictions about insurance or location,” Baucom says.

Bridging gaps

The clinic aims to supplement, not duplicate, the many mental health resources already available on campus and in the community. Baucom says that BHIDC treats many of the “high prevalence” disorders such as depression, anxiety, stress and trauma and will organize specialty clinics to specifically address the needs of specific communities. They’re currently working with University Neighborhood Partners, which serves Salt Lake City’s west side neighborhoods, the Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services and the Fraternal Order of Police to establish relationships with local agencies.

Learn about the services currently offered here.

“We’re reaching out to leaders both on- and off-campus to ask about existing needs and figuring out how we can facilitate using the resources that exist here at the university to help the community where those needs are present,” Baucom says.

Another specialty clinic, Leifker says, serves children with tic disorders, trichotillomania (a hair-pulling disorder) and obsessive-compulsive disorder. “We also hope at some point to open up for group therapy and expand our services,” she says.

Introducing new methods

The clinic will also be a place where University of Utah faculty, staff and graduate students can conduct clinical research. The clinic provides the necessary infrastructure and resources for U faculty and students interested in conducting clinical trials. This includes resources such as multiple private clinical rooms, an existing library of outcome measures, and statistical and methodological consultation for study design and outcome evaluation.

Ongoing trials in the clinic by Baucom and Leifker use these resources to conduct research that evaluates the effectiveness of some clinical treatments that are brand-new or still in development.

“We are able to monitor outcomes and test out emerging treatments to see if they’re effective in populations that we’re working to serve,” Leifker says, noting that participants involved in active clinical research studies would receive such treatments free of charge. “We’re offering these evidence-based treatments that are, to date, not so frequently available in Utah.”

“It’s a way for people to benefit from the most up-to-date cutting-edge therapies,” Baucom adds. “So it’s a way, again, of working to make things more accessible that aren’t already.”

The BHIDC seeks to be responsive and nimble in response to community needs, and welcomes input from the community about unmet mental health needs. Contact them here.

In addition to support from the university, CSBS and the Department of Psychology, BHIDC is funded by research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U’s Consortium for Families & Health Research (C-FAHR) as well as by a gift from Apple Inc.

Media Contacts

Feea Leifkerresearch assistant professor, Department of Psychology
Office: 801-585-2176

Brian Baucomassociate professor, Department of Psychology
Office: 801-581-4697

Paul Gabrielsenresearch/science communications specialist, University of Utah Communications
Mobile: 801-505-8253