Labor Day gives Austin's new sobering center glimpse into patient base


    Labor Day marked the first holiday weekend for Austin’s new sobering center. (CBS Austin)

    Labor Day marked the first holiday weekend for Austin’s new sobering center.

    The office on Sabine once occupied by the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office got a glimpse of what their patient base may look like.

    “(We’re) seeing a pretty good mix of alcohol and heroin,” said Executive Director Dr. Rhonda Patrick.

    As of Tuesday, the center has been open for two weekends (roughly seven days.) In that time, Dr. Patrick said about 70 percent of patients were treated for alcohol and about 30 percent of patients were treated for heroin or opioid-based drugs.

    “We’ve actually saved lives here,” said Dr. Patrick.

    Over the weekend, Patrick said a woman was brought in by either law enforcement or EMS who needed to be treated with Narcan, a drug used when there’s suspicion of opioid use. Once she was no longer showing signs that needed their care, she was taken to rehab. Patrick said if it wasn’t for staff and paramedics of the sobering center, “she would be dead of an overdose.”

    Opioid abuse has been widely reported throughout the country, but Austin and Travis Country haven’t seen statistics that shows they’re a city that’s part of the abuse. The sobering center will be able to better track substance abuse patterns.

    “We’re really going to be able to track statistics and really look at what is our substance using pattern in our community because I don’t think we have a clear idea,” she said. “We assume that it’s all alcohol or all K2, but in reality we don’t have a good mechanism for tracking that.”

    About 60 people were treated at the center since the doors on Sabine first opened. Patrick said many of those were retired veterans or active-duty military.

    “We expected it but we didn’t quite expect to see 30 percent, but that number may adjust.” said Dr. Patrick. “There’s a certain way you need to talk and engage with especially active duty personnel, we have to do some training around that.”

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