Salt Lake County is closer to having a single computer-aided dispatch system for all of its public-safety agencies.
An interlocal agreement has been reached between Salt Lake City, which operates off one dispatch platform, and the trustees of Valley Emergency Communications Center (VECC), which has a different dispatch system for many of the county’s other police agencies.
Optum will continue to provide behavioral health services for Salt Lake County, which renewed its $63 million contract with the company.
County Mayor Ben McAdams informed the County Council on Tuesday that an independent selection committee felt Optum’s proposal was better than two competing bids. The contract is for two years with renewal options.
“Optum presented a better vision for the future,” he added, “including enhancing Salt Lake County’s nationally recognized crisis services and expanding housing options for the most vulnerable residents served by the county.”
Optum has overseen behavioral health services since the county switched to a managed-care model in 2012. A recent audit found that the new system has worked fairly well although there have been some problems.
“Our decision to move to a managed-care model resulted in greater provider choice for consumers, increased transparency and accountability through better reporting and oversight and it allowed the marketplace to offer services at competitive pricing,” McAdams said.
To give that agreement more political weight, local-government councils are being asked to pass resolutions of support for hiring a consultant to direct the selection of a single dispatch system.
The Salt Lake County Council did so Tuesday with enthusiasm — and a bit of disbelief that a solution may be near to a problem that has lingered for decades.
"So the end is in sight?" Councilman Jim Bradley asked rhetorically. "Amazing."
John Inch Morgan, who became VECC’s executive director in December after 17 years as Taylorsville’s city manager, said the interlocal agreement signing was vital to moving forward, but that council consents were sought to build support since all entities have to be on board for a single dispatch system to succeed.
"This resolution is [like] clapping and saying we’re behind it," said Council Chairman Michael Jensen, also the Unified Fire Authority chief.
The County Council has long supported consolidated dispatch services. Last year, it approved County Mayor Ben McAdams’ proposal to spend $1.4 million to purchase software and train public safety personnel to use it.
Inch Morgan said legislation that compelled local officials to resolve the matter included another $2 million from the state. "So whichever [dispatch system] our consultant goes with, we’ll have sufficient funds," he added.
He is now forming a board from participating agencies to work with the consultant on a "request for proposal." Inch Morgan also said he is compiling a list of potential vendors who might be interested.
As of now, a Versaterm platform is used by Salt Lake City, Unified Police Department and Sandy. It handles about 70 percent of all emergency calls. The remainder go through VECC, whose system is made by Spillman Technologies.
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