The Austin-Travis County Sobering Center in downtown has been in operation for more than three years now. It was first opened as a way to keep bar patrons from clogging up the courts with petty charges like public intoxication, and as a way to help keep more cops out on the street instead of spending time at the station filling out paperwork.
As operations have continued, so has the Sobriety Center’s evolution. The early focus was on alcohol, but as more and more people began arriving under the influence of other drugs, the center began to expand its focus to other substances, especially opioids.
On Monday, the Sobering Center announced a change to the way people will be separated once they are admitted in. No longer will men and women be housed in different dorms. Instead, people will be separated by substance.
“Someone using a depressant will likely need things like rest while those using stimulants will have more energy and be looking for ways to engage,” officials said Monday in a press release. “The new dorm has things like bean bags, crafts, television, and other tactile activities. Ultimately this change allows staff to provide the best care possible in a more fitting environment.”
Former Sobering Center Board Member Doug Smith emphasized the impact something like this could have had on his own life.
“People who have committed robberies or burglaries and things like that, they will tell you that it’s out of desperation for more drugs,” Smith said. “If someone could have intervened at the point that they’re clearly a threat to themselves, or to others, and they could be in a space where they could safely sober up and not lose their minds, it would make all the difference. One the person has stabilized they’re in a better mental space and you can say, ‘let’s talk about some options for you and the many routes to recovery. There’s not one single way. Let’s talk about what the next step would look like for you.”