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Out of reach? » There are other programs that provide pharmaceutical treatments. But many of them are underfunded, according to providers, and often too expensive for addicts trying to get clean.
Addiction is a treatable disease, says Jennifer Hyvonen, external affairs director at the Fourth Street Clinic. But treatment requires resources that are in short supply.
Join us for a Trib Talk
Monday » Jennifer Napier-Pearce at 12:15 p.m. Monday will moderate a live chat about drug use in Pioneer Park with Jennifer Hyvonen, external affairs director at the Fourth Street Clinic; Matt Minkovich, executive director of The Road Home; Lee Dobrowolski, deputy Salt Lake City police chief; and Christopher Smart, Tribune reporter. > sltrib.com
"The services are limited and there is a long wait list," she says. "But there are a lot of things we can do to treat substance abuse."
Salt Lake City police Sgt. Michelle Ross seeks to bring programs that are available to the homeless each week. Various providers gather at Pioneer Park or 500 West near 300 South, while Ross attempts to shepherd people to them. Mayor Ralph Becker recently announced that the city would reboot its efforts to offer programs to the homeless.
But it can be a hard sell. Many in the chronic homeless population are distrustful, particularly of police.
Law enforcement will not tolerate criminal activity, Deputy Police Chief Mike Brown says in an interview.
"Dealers target the homeless, specifically," he says. "And the dealers use them as cover" to hold or deal the drugs.
Even though police make hundreds of arrests each year around the shelter, "you can’t arrest your way out of this problem," Brown says.
The solution "is to get these people the help they need so they can get off the street."
Nonetheless there seems to be an unending stream of homeless, particularly in a sluggish economy. And as funding shrinks for programs to aid the homeless, their population grows. And with it, the flow of illegal drugs.
"At the end of the day, people are doing something to make the pain go away," Hunt says. "It’s a coping mechanism for what they are facing."
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