The City of Austin and Travis County are preparing to announce the appointment of a permanent Executive Director of a new Sobering Center to tackle binge drinking and public intoxication on the streets of Austin.
The Executive Director will be named and introduced at a press conference today (Monday, December 11, 2017) at 3:30 p.m. at 1213 Sabine Street, the future home of the Sobering Center on the site of the former Travis County Medical Examiner’s facility, which is being renovated.
A non-profit local governmental corporation was formed to oversee the Center by Travis County and the City of Austin in 2016 after a collaborative stakeholder process. Judge Nancy Hohengarten, who serves as Board Chair, and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Commissioner Margaret Gomez, who serve on the 11-member board, will be present at the announcement.
The new Executive Director will be responsible for launching the Center, hiring staff, overseeing building renovations, improving public health and safety and relieving some of the financial burdens on the criminal justice and emergency medical systems.
The Sobering Center – a joint project between the City of Austin and Travis County – is expected to open in summer 2018. It will provide a safe environment for publicly intoxicated individuals to sober up and, when appropriate, initiate recovery. It aims to enhance public health and public safety by providing an alternative to the emergency room and jail.
This facility will make Austin one of the few cities across the nation with specialist facilities providing frontline aid and support to publicly intoxicated individuals who need to sober up. The Center is a collaboration between criminal justice, law enforcement and medical officials who sought to find a better way to help people who were drunk in public. Similar efforts have proven successful in Houston, Cambridge, Portland, San Antonio, and San Francisco.
While alcohol abuse is the primary problem addressed by sobering centers, many people also have issues with other substances and may be suffering from mental illness. Without sobering centers, these people often end up in emergency departments or jails. Diverting them to sobering centers provides relief to emergency medical and criminal justice systems and, more importantly, provides problem drinkers with better care and support.
Media interested in attending today’s press conference should email media.