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The Salvation Army is grappling with how to save a substance abuse treatment program if the Salt Lake County Commission doesn't fund it.

And commissioners are debating whether to bend federal and local rules to accommodate one program at the expense of others - or if they even can.The Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Treatment Program was not among 30-plus programs considered by the Alcohol, Drug Planning and Allocation Committee for a share of $6.3 million because its application was 10 minutes late. Maj. Del Brockelman blamed an accountant's error for the delay.

He said county money makes up a large portion of the budget for

the 100-bed program. This year, the Salvation Army asked for $400,000 to increase the county's contract from 23 to 40 beds.

"The potential for that kind of reduction in funding means we would have to close down a substantial portion of our alcohol and drug program," said Brockelman. "It means a reduction in clients, which means increased pressure on `detox,' the county jail and those kinds of things."

Brockelman called loss of funding a tragedy for adult males who need treatment. "We just hate to see that population not get service. We believe there's productivity in those folks. They're good people. They're addicts, that's true, but that doesn't make them not worthy of good treatment. And because the contract is generally renewable for two more years, that could cut us out for three years."

The program likely wouldn't have gotten an increase no matter what, said Todd Hattori, Salt Lake County Human Services spokesman. Total funding has been reduced from previous years. No one got more and some lost funds.

But this year was an unusual one, he added. The Indian Alcoholism Counseling and Recovery House Program was not among programs for which the committee recommended funding.

During a public hearing at which the program presented about 500 signatures on a petition requesting funding, the commission agreed to ignore the panel's zero-funding recommendation. That doesn't usually happen, either.

Treatment facility director Rod Betonney said the commission will again give the Indian Recovery Center $181,483 to serve people who are "homeless, dispossessed, disenfranchised."

This is the first time Hattori remembers an unfunded program asking for a review, as the Salvation Army is doing, after missing deadline.

"Not funding a program is not unusual, especially because of major changes the division (of substance abuse) is making in what kind of services it provides," said Hattori. "They're emphasizing managed-care, with more money on short-term treatment, rather than long-term, more expensive treatment."

Federal regulations require funding of certain types of programs, like those for women who are pregnant or have dependent children. The committee, made up of treatment specialist not competing for funding, then looks at requests to see that the "full continuum of services" are covered.

Barbara Hardy, director of the county Division of Substance Abuse, for which the committee is the advisory board, said commissioners may not have flexibility to change the funding decision.

"Certainly the commission has the right to make the final decision, but I'm sure they want to follow policies and laws as much as I do."

Hardy said she had met with county attorneys Tuesday to find out how much flexibility the commission has. "That's something we are still sorting out."

Changing the recommendations calls the entire process into question, according to a former panelist who asked not to be named. Volunteers on such citizens panels put in a lot of time to study programs and "take it very seriously. This could take the heart out of it."

Applicants were given nearly three months to put their grant requests together and were offered technical advice, as well, said Hattori.

The commission expects to decide about the funding in about two weeks.