The University of Utah announced a commitment of $150 million from the Huntsman family on November 4, 2019, to establish the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. The institute is expected to become a nationally recognized leader in research, care, education, and community outreach—and a model for other states to follow.
“All families are impacted by the effects of mental illness. This is the first step in positioning Utah as a national leader in identifying, caring for, and seeking new treatments for families facing the difficult challenges that come with mental health,” said Karen Huntsman. “Our family invites the community to join us in supporting this important work.”
As part of the grant agreement, the university will work closely with the Huntsman family to raise additional funds to support the institute and to increase awareness in the community about mental health.
The gift will provide financial support to the University of Utah Health’s Department of Psychiatry and full-service psychiatric hospital known as UNI (University Neuropsychiatric Institute). In addition, the donation will be used to support mental health services and screenings for the university’s 32,000 students, as well as in rural areas across the state. The funding also will support university research aimed at identifying genetic risks and other factors that cause or contribute to mental illness. The university plans to rename UNI in recognition of this gift, identifying it as the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
“This grant is the culmination of years of interaction between the Huntsman family and UNI. This is a unique opportunity to bring together an immensely talented university with superb leadership and a philanthropic, generational commitment that we hope will only expand over time,” said Peter R. Huntsman, CEO, Huntsman Foundation. “It is past time to change the stigma and misperceptions about mental health.”
“The Huntsman family has once again stepped forward to lead the way on a serious public health issue,”said University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins.
“We share a dedication to addressing the mental health needs of our campus and the greater community. We are grateful to Karen and her remarkable family for this transformational gift. Together, we will work to increase positive outcomes, destigmatize the perception of mental illness, and enhance the quality of life for families across Utah.”
The university will recruit a new chair of the Department of Psychiatry who will also serve as the CEO of the institute. The search for that leader will be led by Randall J. Olson, chair of the U’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and CEO of the John A. Moran Eye Center. The position will play a vital role in partnering with faculty and community members in using funds to develop a center of excellence in mental health at the university. The chair will also be instrumental in planning a national mental health symposium to be held in Utah next year.
“As we face a nationwide psychiatrist shortage, this gift will allow us to support enhanced training for mental and behavioral health professionals and allow us to reimagine care models to better address mental health needs across the state,”said Michael Good, senior vice president for Health Sciences, CEO of University of Utah Health, and dean of the School of Medicine. “Over the past 30 years, the Department of Psychiatry and UNI have positioned the University of Utah as a regional leader in the treatment and research of mental illness.
This historic donation builds on that legacy and provides the resources to scale both our clinical outreach and our research efforts.”
The Huntsman family has a long tradition of funding programs at the university, including the nationally acclaimed Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), which was established in 1995 with a $100 million donation. The institute now includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital as well as additional research facilities.
“This commitment in no way diminishes our ongoing financial support to continue to build and promote the Huntsman Cancer Institute,” said Peter Huntsman.
More information about the fundraising initiative is available online at hmhi.utah.edu.