Substance abuse and mental health treatment options will come available over the next four months for individuals identified through Operation Rio Grande.
State and local officials announced Tuesday that about 250 treatment beds will be ready for clients to fill by December. Volunteers of America, Odyssey House, First Step House, House of Hope and Project Reality will pay to lease and renovate new spaces to expand treatment. The state of Utah will pay the long-term cost of residential care.
Homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson stood with officials to announce the news.
“It has been said that we’re just tackling the problem of drug addiction and what have you. Let me assure you that from the state to the county to the city, numerous non-profits, we’ve been looking at the causes, the root causes of homelessness,” Atkinson said. “The root causes of poverty.”
The first phase of Operation Rio Grande, which began August 14th removed hundreds of hardened criminals from the Rio Grande neighborhood of downtown Salt Lake City. More than 400 people have been arrested so far.
Officials also announced that a new specialty court will compliment the treatment options. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said the court will start accepting clients in September.
“A key aspect of this court is that we will connect eligible individuals to recovery support quickly,” McAdams said. “For the first time, clients will be screened for the program while still in jail and in under two weeks they will be connected to a structured, carefully monitored treatment program.”
McAdams said treatment is a more effective, efficient use of taxpayer dollars than jail.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes told reporters he’s confident the federal government will soon approve the state’s waiver for a limited Medicaid expansion plan that will serve mostly homeless people.