Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams gave a ‘State of the County’ address on Tuesday, where he warned that unless the state funds drug treatment programs, he will ask state lawmakers to scrap new criminal justice reform measures.
McAdams says in 2015, when the state passed criminal justice reforms to lower the drug possession penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor, he supported it, but said that the time, “that reforms also required the passage of Gov. Herbert’s ‘Healthy Utah’ Medicaid plan, offering behavioral health and drug treatment to these individuals in order for the justice reinvestment to succeed.”
That didn’t happen, and McAdams says now offenders are leaving state prison without drug treatment. Many of them end up back in county jails on those misdemeanor drug charges, but there is no money to give them treatment.
McAdams has been discussing the issue with state legislators and members of Governor Herbert’s staff to come up with a solution.
“However,” the second-term mayor says, “if this dialogue fails, I see little recourse but to ask the state legislature to roll back those reforms, to halt the chaos on our streets.”
Downtown raids by law enforcement last fall known as Operation Diversion were successful, McAdams said. They resulted in dozens of drug arrests and even more people choosing instead to go into rehab. But the money to pay for treatment following the sweeps was one-time funding and is almost spent.
McAdams says he’s begun to ask state lawmakers for more money from the Medicaid Extension fund to pay for drug treatment.
“Without treatment, the promise of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which we all support, cannot be fulfilled,” he says.
In his speech, McAdams also highlighted the economic growth and the potential to lure more development and high-paying jobs to the area.