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Operation Diversion treatment beds in doubt as state rejects county’s request for extra funds

First Published      Last Updated Jul 14 2017 11:24 pm


Operation Diversion » The county gets $2M instead of $3.6M in state Justice Reinvestment money, likely cutting into project’s financing.

Salt Lake County officials had hoped to improve their Operation Diversion program with a specialized court that would motivate low-level drug offenders to complete their fast-tracked, publicly funded treatment.

Instead, the future of that treatment option is in doubt.

The state rejected the county's bid for twice its per capita share of funds meant to reduce incarceration through supportive services such as mental health and drug addiction treatment, granting it $2 million instead of the $3.6 million the county had requested.

"We didn't receive all the money that we asked for," said county Criminal Justice Advisory Council Coordinator Noella Sudbury. "We're grateful for what we received. The state has always been a big supporter of us and we're happy to receive any money for treatment from them."




The Justice Reinvestment Initiative funds were allocated by a six-member committee made up of Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel and Weber County Attorney Christopher Allred; Lincoln Schurtz and Adam Trupp of the Utah Association of Counties; and Doug Thomas and Brent Kelsey of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Funding is regarded as ongoing, Kelsey said. So given that Salt Lake County had requested an increase to $4.4 million in 2018-19, it has been granted only half of the $8 million total it sought.

The county had argued in its application that it serves an estimated three-fourths of the state's homeless population, which includes many nonviolent offenders in need of treatment.

But Kelsey said early on, the committee eliminated requests for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, or anything not related to the central mission of funding services. Salt Lake County's proposal included funds for a judge, a prosecutor, a public defender, two detectives, three probation-focused officers, and another police sergeant who would have led a mental health unit.

The full meaning for Operation Diversion wasn't clear Friday.

Last year, the treatment-based enforcement initiative funded 63 residential addiction treatment beds that the county, working with Salt Lake City, has filled with low-level drug offenders and other users who have walked into the city's Community Connection Center at 511 W. 200 South.

Pledged city and county funds will keep those beds open through 2017, Sudbury has said. But the county had hoped to apply the Justice Reinvestment grant toward this effort in 2018, and also to establish a "Diversion Court" that would increase success rates by holding offenders' feet to the fire through completion of their treatment.

With the lesser allocation, the county still wants to move forward with plans to expand its Intensive Supervision Probation program, which pairs high-risk probation clients with case managers and officers who meet them at their residences and workplaces. It also wants to implement an $85,000 pilot program to make behavioral health specialists available to Unified Police Department officers.

About $700,000 of the $2 million would remain if those uses are approved by the state committee, and Sudbury said the county hopes to invest the remainder in "treatment of all levels."

But those funds would only keep Operation Diversion's 63 beds open for about three months — never mind establishing a new court.

Operation Diversion began last fall with sweeps near the 210 S. Rio Grande St. shelter on a block notorious for its rampant criminal activity.

Sixty-eight offenders were given the choice to immediately check into residential addiction treatment or go to jail. About four-fifths who chose treatment left before completing the program. Eight completed six months of treatment and seven remained in treatment as of early June.

Since-vacated beds have been filled by other voluntary clients, of whom about half had stuck it out through June.

Other counties received worse news. Summit, Tooele and Juab counties didn't receive a penny after requesting $710,000, $515,000 and $220,000, respectively. Washington County received just $400,000 of $865,000 requested in ongoing funds and none of the $390,000 it requested in one-time funds, though its per capita share would have been even less, at $290,000.

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AT A GLANCE

Justice Reinvestment Initiative grant allocations

A state committee this week allocated $6 million in annual grant funds to lower incarceration rates through treatment and supportive services. The allocations are considered ongoing and good for two years, contingent on sustained legislative funding. All onetime funding requests were denied. Below are the counties receiving the highest share of funds.

1. Salt Lake County » Allocated $1.99 million of $3.56 million requested. Its per capita share would have been $1.96 million.

2. Utah County » $1.05 million of $1.3 million requested. Per capita: $1.02 million. ($210,000 one-time request denied)

3. Weber County » $645,000 of $635,000 requested. Per capita: $645,000.

4. Davis County » $600,000 of $600,000 requested. Per capita: $595,000. ($145,000 one-time request denied)

5. Washington County » $400,000 of $865,000. Per capita: $290,000. ($390,000 one-time request denied)

6. Cache County » $300,000 of $300,000. Per capita: $300,000. ($110,000 one-time request denied)


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