In as little as 6-8 months, the Positive Action Assistance Group, which works to provide housing and support to mentally ill Ogdenites, may have to close its doors. After Utah lawmakers slashed its annual budget four years ago, PAAG and one of its housing locations, the Royal Hotel located on 26th Street and Wall Avenue, may shut down.
This nonprofit organization is critical for our community, especially because these mentally ill people, who may not receive care, compassion or treatment anywhere else, could become homeless, hospital patients or even jail inmates. This raises a concern for our community, as it would be more expensive to take care of these people if they don’t receive care than if they do. This very vulnerable population, which hasn’t been taken care of by anyone else, needs this community support to continue staying off the streets.
The Royal Hotel is only one of the properties that houses Ogden’s persistently and seriously ill population. PAAG currently has 101 beds at different locations in Ogden, including Bramwell Court, group homes and the Stame properties.
According to its website, PAAG began in 1970 to find housing for mentally ill people who were constantly being evicted from other rentals or were found “inappropriate” by their landlords. Many of these people were in and out of the hospital and needed assistance. Soon, though, more than 100 of their clients could be homeless.
According to www.paagutah.org, its target population numbers more than 1,000 individuals in Weber County. Although PAAG works closely with Weber County Human Services, the county hasn’t fully stepped up to provide funding for these housing programs or treatment programs.
Weber County commissioner Jan Zogmaister, the chair for the committee charged with raising funds for PAAG, said funding for the program could dry up in 6-8 months. She argues that without the services PAAG provides, the seriously and persistently mentally ill population it serves will be out on the streets, in jail or in the hospital.
But what is actually being done to keep this vital program afloat? Obviously no one else wants to help administer to this trying population, and PAAG needs the help. These people aren’t just PAAG clients; they are also residents and community members in Ogden. We need to help these people keep their heads above water. It would be crazy not to support this program because of all that it does, or has done in the past, before budget cuts.
PAAG had to close down its drug and alcohol treatment program along with another drop-in center. Its current drop-in center, located on Adams Avenue, provides members with coffee, lunch and companionship as well as a trading post. Members earn amenities, groceries, hygiene products and such in return for reaching treatment goals and helping with chores.
The seriously and persistently mentally ill of Weber County shouldn’t be expected to travel to Salt Lake City for treatment and help when we should be providing the assistance. Demand funding for these individuals; they need it more than some of us will ever know.