“Operation Rio Grande”, a three-phase plan meant to clear the streets of Salt Lake’s visibly homeless, began last weekend in Salt Lake City with a series of mass arrests. Many of those arrested also struggle with addictions to drugs and alcohol, and officials affirmed at the time of the arrests that the state will commit to providing rehabilitation to those in need.
However, the required surplus of jail beds was created by disrupting existing treatment programs. Until the arrests took place,122 men and 32 women were already actively engaged in Salt Lake County’s Correctional Addiction Treatment Services, or CATS.
As a result of Operation Rio Grande, the CATS program was dismantled early Friday morning with buses loaded at 3AM transporting Men’s CATS to Davis County and Women’s CATS to Weber County. Families awoke to learn their loved ones had been moved almost 50 miles away—a 2 ½ hour ride one-way by bus or train.
What is CATS?
CATS is a program facilitated by licensed therapists who provide substance abuse and mental health counseling to inmates struggling with addiction. CATS oversees processing groups and specialized classes on grief and loss, childhood trauma, parenting, etc. The Salt Lake County jail maintains a lengthy program waiting list for this unique program. Often, inmates wait weeks, sometimes months to get in.
The CATS program involves not only addiction treatment, but also comprehensive assessments, individualized aftercare plans, housing support and medication. No one leaves CATS without their “next step” in place and the program has been widely praised for its success rate.
Let’s make sure this critical program remains accessible to those who need it.
CALL TO ACTION
- Contact the Utah politicians below and let them know you want to ensure the CATS program is restored.
Experts agree the following 3 components are crucial:
- Inmates moved out of the CATS program due to pre-sentencing status or existing warrants should be returned to the program immediately.
- Inmates should be moved to dedicated treatment pods within their respective jails in support of therapeutic community.
- CATS staff should be granted jail access and contact visits immediately.
Gov. Gary Herbert: Call (801) 538-1000 or leave an online comment here
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox: Call 801-538-1041, Tweet @SpencerJCox
Rep. Greg Hughes: Call 801-432-0362, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tweet @GHughes51
SLCo Mayor Ben McAdams: Call 385-468-7000, Tweet @MayorBenMcAdams
SLC Mayor Jackie Biskupski: Call 801-535-7704, Email email@example.com
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith D. Squires: Tweet @SquiresDPS
Talking Points: Why disrupting CATS matters
-Per Utah state statute, inmates jailed for probation violations may only be housed in their arresting counties. But, Operation Rio Grande sent many inmates to counties outside of Salt Lake County, leaving many without necessary resources and access to families nearby.
-Right now, a state grant is available to CATS participants that covers the costs of Vivitrol injections (a highly effective drug that blocks opioid receptors in the brain). However, neither Davis County nor Weber County have adequate medical staff or permitting to administer Vivitrol injections.
-CATS inmates lose a personal caseworker and continued funding for community-based drug treatment though this displacement.
-It appears Weber County Jail was not informed that incoming inmates would need to be held in dedicated housing, a key part of the CATS program.
-Jail sergeants have not arranged for women’s programming to continue.
-CATS therapists lack access to both Davis County and Weber County jails.
-One expert noted: “Inmates are devastated. For some, CATS provided an opportunity to get clean and sober for the first time in years. They’ve started the hard work of recovery—they’re processing trauma, accepting culpability, identifying thinking errors, triggers, learning life and relapse prevention skills—and are slowing rebuilding bridges burned. They’re calling mom. Writing letters to their children. They’re apologizing. They’re hopeful.”