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Salt Lake County on Thursday launched a program that seeks to track how effectively addiction and behavioral health treatment prevents repeat criminal offenses while offering treatment to hundreds of high-risk men.

In partnership with the First Step House, the county launched a program that will offer treatment to up to 225 men who have spent time in jail. Researchers in the REACH program will meanwhile track 225 people who receive treatment elsewhere to study the program's effectiveness.

The county hopes to find those who enter the program are less likely to continue criminal behavior and more likely to find stable housing.

"There's a pattern of offenders who commit repeat offenses," Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said at the program's opening. "That not only is a human tragedy, but it costs taxpayers a lot of money."

The program is part of McAdams's focus on improving services that can contribute to homelessness and recidivism. The county council approved two programs dubbed "Pay for Success," including REACH.

REACH was backed by private donors who the county will pay if the program meets goals that are tracked by researchers at the University of Utah in a randomized control trial.

That research includes tracking hundreds of other people through the criminal justice system to see if those who aren't in the REACH program spend more time incarcerated.

"That's how we know, 'does this program improve how we're operating?'" said Katie Reberg, project manager at the Sorensen Impact Center.

The county hopes that having 225 spots for treatment will relieve what is otherwise a crowded addiction and behavioral health system.

"The REACH guys go right into treatment," said Shawn McMillen, First Step House executive director. "The others will go into treatment as usual, which is six to nine months" of waiting for treatment.

If the criminal justice Pay for Success program is successful, it would also help with an ongoing issue of crowding at the county jail. Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder recently announced he would jump-start an effort to send county inmates to other jails, which the county council recently approved.

"At the end of the day," McAdams said, "we'll be saving money."

Twitter: @TaylorWAnderson