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Are Sobering Centers The Answer to Public Intoxication?


In movies, public intoxication is a harmless venture done by most adults. Unfortunately, the real world has some sobering consequences for people who are openly drunk. Inebriated individuals in public areas could face criminal charges and staggering hospital bills. The city of Houston has tried to rectify this problem by implementing structures called “sobering centers.”

Sobering centers provide individuals a safe place to sober up. People placed in sobering centers aren’t criminally charged, and even are provided referrals for alcoholism treatment. Not only do patients benefit, but so do law enforcement. The less time officers spend booking and arresting inebriated people, the faster they can address more serious crimes.

The center in Houston at 150 North Chenevert Street called the The Recovery Center has been open since April 2013 and has seen hundreds of inebriated people. Each of these clients were cared for until they sobered up, offered medical treatment and avoided any type of criminal charges.


The Cost of Public Intoxication

It’s embarrassing to say the least when you’re inebriated in a public place. However, most people don’t consider the cost of being publicly intoxicated. If you’re sick to the point of needing medical care, then you could be paying thousands of dollars for an emergency room. This doesn’t even take into the account the cost of emergency medical service transportation which can reach up to $900.

Even if you’re not sent to the hospital you could face overwhelming cost. Police officers are required by law to either arrest a publicly intoxicated person or send them to the nearest hospital. If you’re sent to jail, you’ll be required to pay for the cost of booking, which could include bond. You could even be charged with public intoxication which is a criminal offense.

Austin’s sobering centers give inebriated people the choice of where to go. If you’re arrested for public intoxication, you can ask for the officer to drop you off at the sobering center. The only exception to this is if you were in the commission of another crime while you were publicly inebriated.

Sobering centers can also be useful if you’re with someone who is intoxicated. You can contact 911 and request they’re taken to the center. You will no longer be legally responsible for them and the sobering center will do a medical assessment to ensure your friend isn’t dangerously intoxicated.


How Does the Sobering Center Work?

You can choose to go to the sobering center or be taken there by a friend or police officer. Once you’ve arrived, the facility will do a quick medical evaluation with their paramedics on staff. If you’re intoxicated to a dangerous level, the center will ask for emergency medical services.

After the assessment you’ll be guided to a gender segregated dorm. You’ll be assigned a cot or recliner to rest while you try and sober up. You also may be offered fresh clothes and food to help metabolize the alcohol in your system. Counselors and other staff will be available to you during your stay. They can assist you with treatment referrals and ways to avoid an alcohol dependency.

The Sobering Center is not a detention facility. This means you can leave on your own even if you’re still under the influence of alcohol. The Center may have an Austin police officer on duty to measure your intoxication level. It’s important to understand if you leave intoxicated you could be criminally charged.


The Effect of Sobering Centers

Public intoxication costs cities hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost time and resources. Officers who use sobering centers shave off a large amount of time that would have been used for booking and arresting. In addition, medical facilities are able to redirect their focus on patients in need rather than tending to intoxicated people.

The issue of public intoxication affects everyone. It distracts police officers and can sometimes lead to alcohol-induced crime such as criminal mischief. It’s also a serious public health issue which can affect productivity at work, school and even raise health care costs.

The Sobering Center saves money for both the healthcare industry and the city. It also provides people with the treatment tools they need if they have a chemical dependency. This leads to less public intoxication arrests, unnecessary criminal charges and public intoxication incidents.


This blog was last updated on March 12th, 2019.

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