MURRAY — Beth Crawford's 15-year-old daughter, Kelsey, said she cried for days when she found out her mom was finally going to try to get clean.
"I was just really proud," Kelsey said of her mother.
Kelsey carried that same pride Wednesday as she stood next to Crawford, beaming as the mother-daughter duo posed for pictures. For the first time in as long as Kelsey said she can remember, she had her mom.
In four days, Crawford said she'll be celebrating exactly one year sober.
That's after an addiction to heroin she said cost her everything — her home and her family — in exchange for a life sleeping on the streets or camping on the shores of the Jordan River in constant search for her next fix.
But Monday, Crawford was settled into a new life. She has a job working at a local pizza shop. She has a roof over her head. And she has her daughter.
Last week, Crawford went to her daughter's choir concert, which Kelsey said "meant the world" to her.
"This is honestly the best time of my life," Kelsey said. "I have the opportunity to have my mom — have her back and truly be there for me when I need her."
As she spoke, her mother's eyes brimmed with tears.
By the time Crawford was arrested last August as part of Operation Rio Grande, she said she had had enough. For the first time in years, she actually wanted to get clean.
So when she was confronted with the option to enter detox and residential treatment, Crawford said she took it.
"I wasn't going to pass it up," she said.
Crawford was one of 784 people who have participated in treatment programs through Salt Lake County contracts as part of Operation Rio Grande — the multiagency effort to clean up crime in Salt Lake City's downtown neighborhood and help connect the homeless to services.
To celebrate Operation Rio Grande's one-year mark, state, city and county leaders highlighted the successes this week, joined by the people whose lives have been changed because of Operation Rio Grande's new approach to criminal justice, homelessness and drug addiction.
Now living in transitional outpatient housing funded by Odyssey House's partnership with Salt Lake County, Crawford said while she looks to ease herself to a self-reliant life, she lives by a new motto.
"I spent so long seeing how far down I could go, now let's see how far I can go up," she said.
As Operation Rio Grande heads into its second year, county leaders also have a similar ambition.
Even though the county more than doubled the number of inpatient treatment beds to more than 243 since the beginning of the operation and housed 143 clients in sober living programs since mid-January, there's more to do, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said.
Hundreds of people are still waiting for treatment.
Odyssey House, just one of Salt Lake County's treatment providers, has a waiting list of about 220 people, which can take anywhere between three weeks and three months to get in, according to Odyssey House staff estimates.
Currently, Odyssey House has about 236 residential beds for adults and about 230 spaces in its outpatient program. Before Operation Rio Grande, it only had the capacity for 138 residential beds and 160 outpatient spaces.
Even with the dollars that came from the Medicaid waiver approved by the Utah Legislature in recent years, there's not enough money to cover people who continue to fall in health care coverage gaps.
However, Salt Lake County expects at least some new revenue after Utah's partial Medicaid expansion was approved this year — and perhaps even more if Utah voters pass full Medicaid expansion on the ballot this fall.
In the meantime though, county officials are trying to expand treatment options through a variety of different ways. Those include talks with the University of Utah's Department of Social Work to find more social workers to support more mental health and substance use treatment.
To address a shortage of detox beds, county officials are also meeting with the Department of Workforce Services and the State Office of Medicaid to discuss possibly making social detox a Medicaid covered service, along with planning an expansion to detox programs in October.
Salt Lake County officials also continue to meet with eligible sober living partners to expand the county's network of partners. A Volunteers of America detox and residential treatment center is also slated to open next year.4 comments on this story
County officials also plan to continue to look for ways to expand opportunities for criminal record expungements, after hosting a first-ever "Expungement Day" earlier this year, where a team of team of prosecutors, attorneys, judges and others joined forces to help streamline the complicated process to clear eligible criminal records to help people who have turned their lives around have a better chance at finding jobs.
Tim Whalen, director of Salt Lake County's Behavioral Health Services, said as Operation Rio Grande heads into year two, county officials will continue believing "treatment is the biggest deal."
"We believe it works, we believe it changes lives, and we've always believed that if we had more resources we could do more treatment," he said.