Utah treatment center embarks on big 'experiment' to help addicts (KUTV)


First Step House, a treatment center for men who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, has made big promises in order to get funding for a new, aggressive treatment program.

"It's high pressure, high pressure," said Shawn McMillen, Executive Director of First Step House.

The new program at First Step will be funded by the Pay for Success program in Salt Lake County. It's the county's new, creative approach to getting funded for much-needed public services, but there's a catch: If the First Step House can't meet expectations and deliver on its promises, then the funding from private businesses goes away.

McMillen said he's okay with that. He respects the creativity of county leaders to try something new.

First Step House has pledged to use the money to keep men out of the Salt Lake County jail. The plan is to use the new funds to give intensive focused treatment to 22 men who are at highest risk of going to jail because of their addictions. Over time, McMillen hopes the program will help 250 men stay out of jail , off drugs or alcohol, and on a road toward sobriety, a job and a permanent home. That's the payoff for the businesses who invest in Pay for Success and for the community at large.

McMillen said it costs roughly $30,000 to house one man in the county jail for a year. It costs $8,000 to give that man treatment at First Step House for a year.

"What I want for these people is to get out of the cycle of abuse and incarceration," said McMillen. He said the Pay for Success dollars come with intense scrutiny of the program. Currently, he is working with the county to devise a plan and to determine how to measure success for the program.