Women leaving the Salt Lake County jail with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder will have a new place to go for treatment. The county opened a residential facility Monday designed to help female offenders transition back into the community.
The facility has 16 beds for women who are leaving the criminal justice system. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says the idea is to prevent them from returning to jail.
“This will be a place where they can receive treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, and hopefully we can address the root cause of the factors that landed them in jail in the first place,” McAdams says. The new facility is made possible with $750,000 in funding from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative approved by the Utah legislature this year.
“We are trying to move away from a broken criminal justice system that incarcerates people with mental illness, and we want to move to one that works better for our citizens and for our county budget,” McAdams says. “That’s to provide treatment for individuals who face serious challenges in their lives, and help them to overcome those challenges and become productive members of our community.”
McAdams says success depends in part on the state expanding Medicaid for more low income citizens. Services provided by Valley Behavioral Health within the new facility will be paid for by ongoing Medicaid funds, but he says many of these women will have not have access to health insurance when they’re released into the community.