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Expanding efforts to build a safe, healthy community in the Salt Lake Valley

Jan 04, 2016 02:43PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams

This year, Salt Lake County government led the way on economic growth and jobs, low taxes, public safety and responsiveness to residents. As Utah continues to rebound from the Great Recession, we have an opportunity to take charge of our future and work together to show how we can make a bright future.

We’ve launched the Global Cities Initiative, which helps business and civic leaders in the metro region grown their business through exports and international connections.  Evidence shows that it was the metro areas who led this country out of the recession and that when businesses receive support in learning how reaching new customers and global markets, their employees benefit, earning 17 percent more in salaries.

We opened new treatment options for individuals who end up in jail due to crimes related to mental illness or substance abuse.  With funding help from the Utah legislature, we opened a new community facility for adult women leaving incarceration.  The 16-bed residential home allows these women to transition away from jail, get treatment, reunite with children and families and start establishing a more stable and productive path for their lives.

Salt Lake County brought more than 31 homeless service providers together around an exciting plan to minimize homelessness. For the first time, everyone is on the same page about we want to accomplish, beginning with recognizing and meeting the distinct needs of at-risk and homeless populations. As a coalition, we’re asking the Utah legislature to support our plan by providing money to build several new, smaller shelters that serve the needs of families with children, homeless individuals who are working and other specific groups. A one-size-fits-all approach to this problem hasn’t worked in the past and we need to channel all the care, compassion, effort and money in a new direction.

With a sizeable grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we’ve launched a community partnership in Kearns to improve child well-being throughout the township. Our framework—Evidence2Success—was developed by the foundation to collect data on the needs and the strengths of local youth.  Granite School District will receive additional support to boost their educational programs and it will all be guided by the parents and community leaders who know their schools and neighborhoods best.

Salt Lake County works every day to serve the entire community, through programs such as Meals on Wheels for senior citizens in need, education for coaches and parents on how to recognize and prevent head injuries, expanding senior centers, such as the one in Midvale, to support healthy lifestyles for “baby-boomers” and building three new regional parks, so that every family has a place to get outdoors and enjoy recreational activities together.

In 2016, we’ll rededicate our efforts to reform the criminal justice system and by achieving that, improve public safety. My 2016 budget, adopted by a bipartisan County Council vote, provides funding to meet the immediate needs of the Sheriff, the jail, the District Attorney and the Behavioral Health Division in the short term, as well as money for innovative projects to prevent crime in the long term. 

I’m proud of the bipartisan collaboration that is uniting county leaders, state leaders, our Human Services Department and the Criminal Justice Advisory Council – with the single goal of spending criminal justice and social justice dollars more effectively.

How will we measure success? We’ll know we’ve succeeded when 1) we’ve put the criminals behind bars, 2) the homeless in housing, 3) substance abusers in treatment, and 4) children in school, through high school graduation.

When we’ve done that we’ll have made a measurable and lasting difference in peoples’ lives.

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