There has been talk of bringing Utah’s teen mental health app to New Jersey

On Saturday, Governor Phil Murphy announced that he was going to conduct a more in-depth review of SafeUT, an app that connects students in need of mental health assistance with a counsellor in a matter of seconds.

At a press conference to wrap up the National Governors Association’s winter meeting in Washington, Murphy said, “The answers are out there.” There is a tried and true method that we can rely on. The fact that we, as a nation, haven’t managed to pull everything together yet is discouraging and discouraging, but it also gives me hope that we can.

Murphy, in his role as chair of the National Governors Association, has made improving youth mental health a signature initiative. This was the subject of one of two major sessions at the NGA’s annual winter meeting on Saturday.

When comparing mental health to physical health, “the stigma associated with this is jaw-dropping,” Murphy said in the session.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican and the association’s current vice chair, took the floor at a press conference after Murphy, a Democrat and the association’s current chair, to discuss the state’s efforts to combat youth mental illness.

Cox claims that over 300 lives have been spared thanks to the initiative.

The technology component of this is “meeting kids where they are,” as Cox put it, and “it really is phenomenal the use that it’s getting,” he added.

Murphy said the Utah programme would be one of several included in a playbook he planned to issue at the end of his tenure as chair of the organisation. According to several studies, the mental health crisis has only worsened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, so the playbook would contain best practises among states to address this issue.

For the most part, “this is sharing best practises of stuff that already exists,” Murphy said. Borrowing an idea from another source is not difficult.

Both Democratic and Republican leaders have pushed for state and local funding in coronavirus stimulus legislation, despite the fact that Republican lawmakers have united in their opposition to the money. This has also been the case with mental health policy within the National Governors Association.

“This is an issue that transcends both state and party lines,” Murphy said at the beginning of Saturday’s session. “This is a deeply felt issue for many of us. Keeping our children safe and healthy is a top priority for all of us in positions of authority.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with the governors at the White House on Friday. Biden said that it was Murphy’s “prodding” that led to “significant way to deal with the mental health problems” on the federal level.


Murphy mentioned programmes in Ohio and Colorado, both of which are being led by governors of different political parties, in addition to the one in Utah, where the app was developed.

Cox discussed his struggles with mental health as a child following his parents’ divorce and bullying.

Cox remarked, “Just knowing that piece — you’re not alone — can have a tremendous impact.”

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has spoken publicly about his own experiences with depression in his youth.

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“I didn’t know who to talk to,” he admitted during the meeting. Initially, I blamed myself for my difficulties because I believed there must be something wrong with me.

Murphy, in his January State of the State address, emphasised “leading in prioritising youth mental health through comprehensive means that not just connect kids with resources but empower parents and educators to identify negative signs and provide positive support.”

His new “Arrive Together” programme, in which a plainclothes police officer and a mental health professional are dispatched to assist a person experiencing a mental health crisis, was also highlighted.

Murphy introduced a statewide plan in New Jersey to identify and refer students in need of mental health services outside of their school last year, and he offered $16 million in grants to help higher education institutions address the mental health needs of their students.

Rising suicide rates among New Jersey’s youth were reported by NJ Advance Media in 2019.

After spending several days in Washington, D.C., serving as chair of the NGA and the Democratic Governors Association, Murphy was set to return to New Jersey on Sunday. He had flown in on Wednesday night.

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