Austin Local News
Austin Sobering Center to Open Soon
(Credit: Austin-Travis County Sobering Center)
After more than a decade of efforts, the Austin Sobering Center (ASC) will open its doors and accept its first intake clients, Thursday, August 23rd. Like its neighboring cities, San Antonio and Houston, Austin will now have a different option for managing public intoxication.
The center is an alternative to jail and emergency room sobering, both of which are costly. The center will serve people who meet the legal definition of public intoxication. These individuals will only be able to access the center through law enforcement or emergency medical services staff who will transport them directly to the facility.
"The Sobering Center is part of Austin’s ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of those who live and visit Austin," said ASC’s Executive Director, Dr. Rhonda Patrick. "The health and safety of our residents, students, and visitors is paramount and a Sobering Center is an innovative solution to balancing being a national entertainment and education destination with public intoxication risks."
"Public Intoxication leads people to the criminal justice system - the Sobering Center can help avoid that path," said ASC Board Member Judge Nancy Hohengarten. "Transporting individuals to the Sobering Center takes much less time than arresting a person. It’s anticipated that because of this, the number of bookings for public intoxication will drop. Current statistics indicate more than 2,000 bookings for public intoxication every year in Travis County. Additionally, many criminal justice stakeholders prefer a non-punitive solution to the problem.”
There has been some debate as to how best to fund the new center, but city and county leaders have decided that it will be up to the taxpayers, including $1.7-million annually from Austin alone. Those who are transported to the center will not be charged, despite estimates that expect about 75% of them will be one-time users of the facility.