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Sobering Center Austin gets its first statistics

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

After opening last August, Austin’s first sobering center is finally receiving its inaugural statistics. According to Jasper Brown, the EMS assistant chief, 90 percent of clientele are first-time users of a sobering center and most are brought in for overconsumption of alcohol. The average overnight resident is a 34-year-old male who was brought in by law enforcement for public intoxication. While Brown says he has not yet seen the facility at full capacity, he noted that staff is gearing up for South by Southwest, which is scheduled to begin next week. Commissioner Rebecca Bernhardt asked, “Is there any ongoing calculation on about how much it is saving?” Although there are no final calculations, Brown said he believes there have been meaningful savings in hospital and jail costs as well as officer time since the facility opened. Those numbers are coming through, he said. Commissioner Ed Scruggs noted that 40 percent of those who arrive in the sobering center say they will be walking home after they are released. “That just seems like an astounding number of people,” he said. While there are no requirements to prove one’s method of travel after release, Brown assured the commissioner that regardless of how people get home, they are only released from the center when they are sober enough to legally be on the streets. Of course, a visit to the center does not result in a criminal record, something the commissioners once again applauded. There are also no limit to the number of times an individual can visit the sobering center.

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