Austin-Travis County Sobriety Center slated to open spring 2018

The news Austin-Travis County Sobriety Center opens its doors at 1213 Sabine in the Spring of 2018, where the Medical Examiner’s office is now. (CBS Austin)

Despite losing the ability to speak after a drunk driving accident over a decade ago, Sean Carter spoke before Austin Police, DPS and TxDOT on Wednesday through a speech synthesizer.

“My life was shattered forever, just like my body was,” said Carter.

12 years ago while at college in the Dallas area, Carter said he was in the passenger seat of his friends pick up as they were driving after a night out drinking. The driver lost control and the passenger side of the truck slammed into a tree. Among dozens of injuries, Carter suffered a traumatic brain injury that cost him the use of his voice.

He and his mother share his story across the country to stop drunk driving.

Austin has a plan in place to stop drunk drivers too -- but through stopping public intoxication.

“The police department is seeing three to four thousand (public intoxication) arrests a year,” said Carol Drennan.

Drennan in the interim executive director of the Austin-Travis County Sobriety Center.

The new city non-profit hopes to open their doors at 1213 Sabine in the Spring of 2018, where the Medical Examiner’s office is now. Drennan said the ME’s office is expected to vacate building by September and the sobriety center will start putting the first two floors for use.

Drennan explained the center is for those who are non-violent and picked up by police or EMS for public intoxication. Once they arrive, their vitals are taken, they’re offered a shower, change of clothes and they’re given a room to sleep for 6-8 hours before they’re released.

Upon opening, the center will have room for 39 men, eight women and two private rooms.

“That’s what statistics (say), more men than women. We’re using Houston as a model,” said Drennan.

When asked if the center will mostly be used by those who are homeless, Drennan said statistics show 75 percent of those in Houston who use their sobriety center are first time users, 25 percent are “chronic.” She expects college students and festival goers to be those first time users.

Drennan said the sobriety center will cost the city $1.7 million. The center will be open 24/7.

Bartender and afternoon manger Danny Langley of Shakespeare’s bar on 6th said he see’s police actively battling public intoxication “everyday” and hearing 3,000-4,000 public intoxication arrests a year “seems low” for Austin.

The sobriety center is actively looking nationwide for someone to take Drennan’s spot as executive director. The job posting is on the cities website.

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