Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, 10/27/2020

Intermountain Healthcare and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital are launching a bold plan to enhance mental and behavioral health services for children and teens in crisis throughout the Intermountain West – an effort that has inspired an extraordinary $10 million gift from Utah community leaders Greg and Julie Cook. 

The Cooks’ generous and transformational gift to the Intermountain Foundation will help Intermountain Healthcare and the experts at Primary Children’s expand and enhance behavioral health services to improve mental wellness in children and teens and help prevent mental health crises.

Suicide is a leading cause of death among children ages 10-17 years. Intermountain Healthcare’s hospital emergency departments have seen a more than 300 percent increase in pediatric mental health crises over the past eight years, and an estimated 40 percent of kids who have depression are not getting care, said Katy Welkie, RN, MBA, CEO of Primary Children’s Hospital and Vice President of Intermountain Children’s Health.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the ongoing need for additional mental, behavioral, and emotional health resources,” Welkie said. “It is our responsibility as a community of passionate, motivated, and family-driven individuals to tackle this crisis head on. Thanks to the generous gift given by the Cook family, we will continue to build on our primary promise to offer additional support for children in our community.”

For teenagers like Holland, these services are critical to achieving a hopeful future. 

“I think I just stopped caring. I was living like it was my last day, every day. I didn’t feel like I had a future, or anywhere to go,” said Holland, 16, recalling her struggle before getting help from Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital’s behavioral health services. “I’m really grateful that there’s someone to talk to now.”

With the help of the Cooks’ gift, Intermountain Healthcare and Primary Children’s Hospital will begin to offer:

-  A new pediatric assessment, referral, and consultation service to screen, triage, and place children in the right services, both virtually and in person. Services will include both crisis response and stabilization, as well as a full array of treatment options. 

-  Expansion of available care options, including a call center, TeleHealth services, and in-home crisis services. The call center will connect families to local providers and services throughout the Intermountain West. 

-  A new pediatric behavioral health unit located at the second Primary Children’s Hospital campus being built in Lehi. Offering both inpatient and outpatient services, the new hospital will include a 12-bed behavioral health unit with private outdoor space conducive to healing and spiritual health.

The new Lehi hospital location was selected to ensure the shortest drive time possible for the rapidly growing Utah County community.

“When we learned about Intermountain’s effort to address behavioral health in children, we were inspired to help,” said Greg Cook, a founding executive of dōTERRA essential oils company and a member of the Primary Children’s Hospital Governing Board. “The children who live throughout the six-state area that Primary Children’s Hospital serves cannot be left without these vital services. No suicide needs to happen. It is preventable if all of us work together to be part of the solution.”

The $10 million gift is the largest single gift the Cook family has given to any organization. Greg and Julie Cook are the parents of five children. In 2020, the Cooks also established The Cook Center for Human Connection.

“We’ve had many conversations with people whose children were struggling, and they didn’t know where to go for help,” said Julie Cook. “We thought something needs to be done to change this. Our gift was a way to make a difference.”

The gift will serve as a generation-spanning commitment to behavioral health under Intermountain Healthcare’s unprecedented $500 million promise — half of which would come from community gifts — to create a national model for children’s health.  

The model system will feature a blend of program, research, and capital expansion, and bring together specialized pediatric caregivers from multiple Intermountain facilities and Primary Children’s pediatric partners at University of Utah Health, ultimately serving children in a 400,000 square mile area encompassing Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Alaska.

This vision for children’s health comes at a critical time: the number of children served by Intermountain Healthcare is growing, and due to a variety of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, their health needs continue to change and become more complex.

The new behavioral health programming made possible by the Cook’s gift to the Intermountain Foundation — a critical first contribution that has helped ignite an active groundswell of support — will help to address these unique challenges, and position Utah as the home for the nation’s healthiest kids.

The model health system for children contains three areas of focus:

  • Strengthen Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, pushing the boundaries of one of the nation’s top-ranked pediatric hospitals.

  • Address children’s emerging health needs, reaching beyond hospital walls to ensure community environments that keep children healthy, happy, and safe.
  • Extend care excellence across the Intermountain West, so more families can access top-quality resources for children.

These ambitious goals and investment represent the largest commitment to the care and health of children throughout the Intermountain West since Primary Children’s was envisioned in the early 1900s.

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