It's a much more humane way to treat people. —Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank

SALT LAKE CITY — Volunteers of America's social-model detox center serves 1,700 people a year.

But demand has outstripped available beds to the point that the facility is forced to turn away people who need help, the nonprofit group's Utah CEO told state lawmakers Thursday.

"It's a critical resource in this community," Kathy Bray said, explaining that center serves people who are addicted or misuse alcohol, illegal drugs and legal drugs.

VOA, helped by a $200,000 challenge grant by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation, is working to raise funds to remodel and expand the facility to 68 beds.

The expansion and update is also in response to state licensing regulators who have told VOA officials that the facility needs to increase its square footage per client.

On Thursday, Bray asked the Utah Legislature's Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee to consider a state appropriation of $70,000 to help fund the improvements.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank lent his support to the request, noting that the facility is a better option for addressing "inebriated individuals" than jail. Taking someone who needs detox services to VOA saves, on average, 30 minutes of an officer's time, compared with booking the person into jail.

"It's a much more humane way to treat people," Burbank said.

In other business before the committee, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, urged the appropriations subcommittee to help The Road Home purchase the Community Winter Shelter in Midvale.

The Salt Lake City nonprofit, which shelters and provides intensive case management to homeless individuals and families, announced the purchase of the overflow shelter in January for $1.25 million. The building will require another $1 million in renovations.

Eliason said Gov. Gary Herbert's proposed budget had earmarked $500,000 for the project but he, on behalf of The Road Home, was seeking $750,000.

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Not only does the family shelter provide overflow beds during winter months, it is also opened on occasion to serve emergency needs such as providing shelter to Hurricane Katrina victims who were relocated to Utah and victims of wildfires in central Utah.

On average, it costs about $9 a night to house a person at the shelter, which "is a great value to the taxpayer to have this primarily privately funded resource in the community," Eliason said. "In terms for bang for the buck, it's a fantastic value."

The committee took no action Thursday but is preparing the priority lists for ongoing and one-time money it will forward to the Executive Appropriations Committee.