But a much-publicized two-year crackdown on crime near the 210 S. Rio Grande St. shelter includes a treatment phase that has been copycatted from the county’s dust-binned blueprints — bringing online not only a new drug court, but up to 241 treatment beds, according to a Tuesday announcement.
But “a lot of that thought and work informed what we’re rolling out now, and I’m not sure we could get it up and running as quickly as we have, not having gone through that experience and having all that work to draw from,” Sudbury said.
Odyssey House and First Step House may soon receive the green light for 180 additional treatment beds, though the Dec. 15 goal date printed on an Operation Rio Grande handout appears to be a best-case scenario.
McAdams and Salt Lake County Director of Behavioral Health Tim Whalen, however, ”really deserve a pat on the back,” McMillen said. ”They’ve been singing to the choir with us for a long time, and they’ve been doing everything they can to make access to treatment happen.”
Hughes again spoke positively about the state’s expansion prospects Tuesday. Standing beside him was its sponsor Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, who Hughes said had recently dogged Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at a national legislative conference. Pamela Atkinson, a longtime advocate for homeless people, also received assurances from federal officials, Hughes said.
“They have told her — and who would ever lie to Pamela? Nobody, or else, you know where they‘re going, right? They’ve told her that this is of the highest priority,” Hughes said. “So we are very optimistic about those waivers coming.”
The county last year reported that drug court services add up to about one-fourth of what it would cost to incarcerate those participants, saving taxpayers about $500,000 each month.
McAdams said Tuesday that in the Rio Grande court, ”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.”
The county figured then that its new court would cost $4.8 million in its first two years, though it also hoped to use some JRI funds to keep open 63 Operation Diversion treatment beds that are funded through the end of 2017 by the city and county. Sudbury has previously said that those 63 beds cost about $2.6 million per year.
OPERATION RIO GRANDE UPDATEA planned two-year crackdown on lawlessness around Salt Lake City’s downtown homeless shelter had resulted in 423 total arrests as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Department of Public Safety. Here’s the breakdown of those arrests, as well as social worker statistics provided earlier Tuesday by Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown:ARRESTS • 423FELONIES ALONE • 32FELONIES AND WARRANTS • 52MISDEMEANORS ALONE • 72MISDEMEANORS AND WARRANTS • 267SOCIAL WORKER FIELD OUTREACHES • 72COMMUNITY CONNECTION CENTER WALK-INS • 339
Later Tuesday, the group Utah Against Police Brutality rallied several dozen people near 500 West and 300 South, calling for an end to Operation Rio Grande. A statement from the group labeled the crackdown as “police brutality,” adding that it was not about tamping down crime and drug use — but rather political optics and “appeasing big business and developers” who see potential in the area.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, which has voiced its criticism of the operation in recent days, was tweeting from the rally. “Homeless rights are human rights,” the organization wrote. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski responded on Twitter, saying “everyone has a right to safety,” and the police are “focused on making the area safe for those in need of help and hope.”
Financial details about Operation Rio Grande are expected later this week, after a Wednesday meeting between stakeholders, but McAdams allowed Tuesday that “the assurances we‘ve had to give all of these [treatment] providers is that this is a funding commitment of no less than two to three years.”
“They can’t make this type of investment and only have three months of services,” he said. “It will bankrupt a provider.”
Many among the 420-plus booked by law enforcement during Operation Rio Grande sweeps will not change for the better, she said, but ”if they could just get a handful of people out of there that end up with a good story, that’s considered a success.”